Law Society of Manitoba launches health recovery program as alternative to discipline

Members whose competence issues are linked to mental health can opt in

Law Society of Manitoba launches health recovery program as alternative to discipline

The Law Society of Manitoba has announced an expansion to its suite of health and wellness services available to lawyers, who will now have an alternative to discipline where their conduct or competence issues are found to be linked to mental health concerns.

Manitoba’s health recovery program aims to provide more holistic support and recovery for lawyers whose competence may have been questioned or compromised by health concerns such as addiction, depression, and other mental health issues. The program aims to provide members with comprehensive support for the safe practice of law.

The health recovery program will serve as an alternate remedial option for a lawyer facing disciplinary charges related to health issues. The Law Society of Manitoba determines who is eligible for the program, with public interest being the primary standard for determining referral to the program. The society will shoulder any cost not covered by Manitoba Health for preliminary medical assessments and refer the lawyer to healthcare professionals for treatment.

The lawyer must be willing to engage in and complete the treatment plan and relevant conditions, such as regular reporting requirements with the healthcare provider or restrictions to practice.

Although the health recovery program is confidential, it remains a remedial alternative to the disciplinary process. So, Law Society of Manitoba staff may become aware of the lawyer’s participation in the health recovery program – although strictly on a need-to-know basis.

The program also allows the matter to be brought back to the discipline process where the lawyer involved fails or opts not to complete the treatment. While the health recovery program is designed to be covered by Manitoba Health, the lawyer will shoulder any applicable cost of their individualized treatment, which Manitoba Health does not cover.

The society described the program as likely to be more intensive than the “Law(yer) Strong” peer support services and lengthier than Manitoba Blue Cross’ counselling services.

Earlier this year, the Law Society of Manitoba named its first Indigenous president, who put among the society’s priorities a need to increase Indigenous involvement in the law society, which remained relatively low compared to Manitoba’s Indigenous population.

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