Ontario’s First Dedicated Mental Health Unit for Female Inmates

December 19, 2019

WHITBY — The Ontario government is partnering with Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Sciences (Ontario Shores) to create the province’s first dedicated unit to help female inmates who have acute mental health needs. The government is investing $1.2 million this year to create the unit, and $2.3 million in following years to provide ongoing support.

Located at Ontario Shores, this new unit will have five beds to support the treatment of women who are experiencing serious mental health issues. Individuals will be referred to Ontario Shores if they need more care than can be provided within the Vanier Centre for Women.

“More than a third of the women entering our correctional facilities are experiencing some kind of issue with their mental health,” said Solicitor General Sylvia Jones. “By establishing this new partnership, we can provide better, more integrated health care supports for these women.”

Through this partnership with Ontario Shores, these beds will provide specialty psychiatric hospital care to acutely ill inmates who will benefit from a structured, secure and therapeutic inpatient setting. In addition, the dedicated unit will provide behavioral interventions, counselling, psychological assessment, Indigenous-specific care and recreational activity.

The new dedicated unit is expected to be operational by late 2020. In the interim, Ontario Shores will begin taking female inmates with acute mental health needs into their existing secure assessment unit for treatment as early as January 2020.

“We are pleased to partner with the Ministry of the Solicitor General to provide this new service,” said Karim Mamdani, President and CEO, Ontario Shores. “Everyone in our province, regardless of how they access the mental health care system, should be able to receive care when they need it and this new program takes us another step closer to providing accessible mental health care for all.”

“Individuals with mental health and addiction challenges are over-represented in Ontario’s correctional system,” said Deputy Premier and Minister of Health Christine Elliott. “Through this new dedicated unit, Ontario will provide mental health care for female inmates who have complex needs and require higher-acuity supports.”

“Our government is continuing to fulfill our promise of making mental health and addictions a priority,” said Michael Tibollo, Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions. “Too many women in our justice system are affected every single day by mental health and addiction challenges. With this partnership, we are taking real action to provide better, and more comprehensive care to address the unique needs of these women.”

This is one more way the Ontario government is improving the corrections system and providing support to frontline correctional officers.

Quick Facts

  • On any given day, there are approximately 587 female adults in provincial custody in Ontario.
  • The estimated length of time an individual would spend in the new unit will vary based on individual needs.
  • Of Ontario’s 25 adult correctional institutions, 16 house female inmates.

Additional Resources


“The John Howard Society of Ontario welcomes the provincial government’s investment in dedicated beds at a specialized mental health care hospital for females with acute mental health needs. We have called for better integration of health services between corrections and the community health care system, which has been shown to improve continuity of care and the chances of successful reintegration. The announcement today signals an important step in that direction and demonstrates commitment to addressing these complex issues. Treating mental health needs in a health care setting is more humane and effective.”

Paula Osmok

Executive Director, John Howard Society of Ontario

“We have advocated to increase support for people in our correctional system with mental health conditions, including being cared for in an appropriate health care setting. To support their recovery, rehabilitation and ultimately, successful re-integration into community, investments such as today’s are paramount. We are encouraged by this announcement of the government’s support for mental health care in our province and we look forward to continuing to work together toward bettering the care of incarcerated persons.”

Mary Alberti

CEO, Schizophrenia Society of Ontario

“We commend the Ontario government for providing respectful and dignified care to this vulnerable population. By creating this dedicated mental health unit for women with acute needs in correctional facilities, the government is showcasing a unique and innovative model that can help an individual on the path to recovery.”

Linda Gallacher

CEO, Canadian Mental Health Association Durham Bran

“Today’s announcement is a positive step forward for mental health in corrections and we look forward to continuing our partnership for a healthier and safer Ontario.”

Chris Jackel

Co-Chair, Corrections Ministry Employee Relations Committee

Media Contacts

Marion Isabeau-Ringuette
Office of the Solicitor General

Kristy Denette
Communications Branch


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