Young Campbell River man with mental health issues jailed again

Judge sympathized with his predicament and said it isn’t the young man’s fault there’s little support

Drugged and docile, Tyler Steinthorson was lucid enough to ask the judge to send him back to hospital to deal with his mental health and addiction issues.

Instead, the 23-year-old Campbell River man was jailed 45 days mainly for public protection, Judge Douglas Cowling ruled Monday in provincial court.

The judge sympathized with Steinthorson’s predicament and said it isn’t the young man’s fault there’s little support for him in-between the mental health and legal systems.

However, he couldn’t ignore Steinthorson’s recent past. In the last two years, he’s accumulated several charges for assault and breaching court orders.

“Mr. Steinthorson (is) a very frightening individual when he’s unmedicated and using poly-substances,” Crown prosecutor Adrienne Venturini told the court.

Steinthorson has been diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic who has addiction issues. On June 20, it took pepper spray and six RCMP officers to subdue him when he was being arrested for theft in downtown Campbell River.

He spent 76 days in custody and was released after being found not criminally responsible – due to his mental illness – on a variety of charges, including assaulting a police officer.

Two days after his release though, he was rushed to St. Joseph’s Hospital in Comox after consuming a lethal amount of cough syrup. He survived the overdose and was kept in hospital longer for yet another psychiatric assessment.

During his stay at St. Joe’s, he was given a one-hour pass which he used to buy and consume a mickey of liquor.

The biggest problem is monitoring Steinthorson to ensure he takes his medication, doesn’t consume alcohol and narcotics, and he stays in the residence that’s been approved by probation services.

Judge Cowling pointed out that hospitals are unlikely to readmit Steinthorson unless he has another medical emergency, and jail is the only place where he can receive medical care and remain in one place.

The Crown asked for a 60-day jail sentence, but the judge said 45 days is enough. That means Steinthorson will likely get out in 30 days after serving two-thirds of his latest sentence for breaching a court-ordered curfew.

In the public gallery, following Monday’s court proceedings, was Rhonda Johnson – Steinthorson’s mother, who is a tireless advocate for her son’s mental health needs – a probation officer and two members of a mental health team who will assist Steinthorson after his release. Speaking outside the courtroom, Johnson was grateful her son has temporary protection and the public is safe, but she’s adamant there needs to be better long-term support for people with mental health issues in B.C.

She said her son will get assistance after his release from jail, but just for half a day and he’s expected to live on his own. Johnson is certain that without monitoring, her son will put himself and others in danger.

“We need to do more,” she simply said.

paulr@campbellrivermirror.com