Winnipeg woman worries brother diagnosed with schizophrenia will die in jail

Susan Mitchell has always been close with her brother James Grace. Photo Provided

WINNIPEG — Susan Mitchell has always been by her brother’s side, until his life was turned upside down. According to Mitchell, her brother James Grace was born with brain damage. He is considered a vulnerable person under provincial legislation and was also diagnosed with schizophrenia.

Mitchell’s brother had lived in her home for years. In November, he was arrested for shoplifting and is now in jail because there aren’t enough beds for mental health patients in Manitoba while they await their court date.

“The reality is either he stays in jail and stays in complete isolation which is exacerbating his healthcare or he gets released to me, to the community in a psychotic state,” Mitchell said.

READ MORE: Winnipeg father outraged after son living with schizophrenia put in jail due to bed shortage

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Mitchell is extremely worried about her brother’s mental health. She says it’s been deteriorating since he’s been in Headingly Correctional Centre.

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“On a phone call he told me there was a bomb under the kitchen floor and he was crying,” Mitchell said.

She was shocked to hear Grace was assessed and deemed fit to stand trial since he has been in a psychotic state for almost every phone call they’ve had.

The minister of health admits the lack of beds in Manitoba is a huge issue.

“I don’t think it’s acceptable and it hasn’t been acceptable for quite some time,” Kelvin Goertzen, Manitoba’s health minister said.

There are only two forensic psychiatrists in the province and 14 beds for psychiatric patients waiting assessment. They are always full.

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Mitchell is afraid her brother will die in jail because he’s since been moved to solitary confinement. She believes he was moved there because he is too ill to be around the other inmates, but she said that is not the solution.

“In his psychotic state with all his own thoughts to be locked into a room without any intervention, it’s terrible,” Mitchell said.

The minister of health said the province’s addictions and mental health task force is working on a list of recommendations to improve the lack of beds and will release the list later this year.


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