CAMH to conduct external review after at least two patients go missing
Published Wednesday, July 24, 2019 5:32PM EDT Last Updated Wednesday, July 24, 2019 7:52PM EDT
The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) will launch an external review of their processes for passes and privileges after at least two patients residing there after being found not criminally responsible for violent crimes went missing in the last month.
Zhebin Cong, 47, disappeared from the downtown Toronto facility on July 3 and boarded an international flight about two weeks later.
Cong was previously charged in connection with a fatal stabbing that took place in 2014, but was found not criminally responsible. In May of the same year, the Ontario Review Board decided Cong would reside at CAMH with “privileges extending to living in the community in approved 24-hour supervised accommodation.”
The board concluded that Cong posed a “significant threat to the safety of the public.”
Zhebin Cong is seen in this undated image. (Toronto Police Service)
Cong’s disappearance was made public nearly two weeks later and has drawn criticism from Toronto Mayor John Tory and Ontario Premier Doug Ford. Both politicians called for a review into the handling of the case.
Toronto police have also announced a review into how incidents involving CAMH patients are disclosed to the public. The service previously said they were told Cong was a “low risk to public safety.”
A second man found not criminally responsible for violent crimes briefly went missing from CAMH on Monday, but was found a few hours later.
In a statement issued Wednesday afternoon, CAMH President and CEO Catherine Zahn said that she understands why the community may be concerned about the events of the past month.
“The review will look at incidents over the past several months to inform CAMH practice in the context of the broader forensic psychiatry system and to provide concrete recommendations for our organization,” the statement said.
“We are in the process of naming a chair for the review and we are working to identify international experts who will participate and contribute their skills, knowledge and experience to the recommendations.”
Zahn said that there is a “fine balance” at CAMH between the facility’s “duty to protect the public” and their responsibility to provide “mental health treatment with the ultimate goal of integrating people back into community.”
“People with mental illness can and do get better,” Zahn said. “It’s our responsibility as a health care provider to support patients in their recovery. Achieving the right balance between these two responsibilities in our forensic program and working within the parameters set for us by the Ontario Review Board is complex.”
Zahn said that she hopes to have the review completed by the end of the year.