‘We all have the right to a second opinion’

Rosie Mullaley
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Lawyer, mental-health advocate says another psychiatrist should be hired to work with Craig

Not everyone agrees with the approach Her Majesty’s Penitentiary psychiatrist Dr. David Craig takes in treating mentally ill inmates.

Telegram file photo
St. John’s defence lawyer Mark Gruchy responded to The Telegram’s story on Dr. David Craig by saying prisoners at Her Majesty’s Penitentiary should have more choice of psychiatrists.

Mark Gruchy — a well-known mental-health advocate — is one of many who has expressed concerns about the doctor’s practice of eliminating inmates’ previously prescribed medication once they enter the prison.

But focusing on one man is not how to solve the problem of how inmates’ continuity of care is consistently disrupted, he said.

Gruchy said the entire system of how mentally ill inmates are treated should be looked at, with an emphasis on giving them a choice.

Related story:

‘What I’m doing has to be done’

“We all have the right to a second opinion from a professional,” said Gruchy, a St. John’s defence lawyer who is also co-chairman of the Community Coalition for Mental Health and past-president of the Canadian Mental Health Association.

“They are captive to Dr. Craig’s views, which fall within acceptable professional opinion, but which are by his own admission unusual in their level of conservativeness.

“Under normal circumstances, we would have the option to go with those views or seek something more mainstream or typical. They do not have that choice.”

Gruchy’s comments comes in response to an exclusive Telegram story based on an interview with Craig, who defended his methods and said he believed many people are over-diagnosed and over-prescribed drugs by doctors across the province.

Gruchy says Craig’s methods may not be suitable in a facility where inmates spend short periods of time (under two years) and there isn’t time to get a true assessment.

“If someone is in your care for two or three months, how do you know for sure, mental-healthwise, what’s going on with them?” Gruchy said. “It took my doctor a long time to make a diagnosis. It was a long process. It wasn’t a shoot-from-the-hip processs. I don’t know how you can conclude so quickly someone was misdiagnosed and over-prescribed medication.”

But Gruchy said it’s best to look at the bigger picture of how to improve inmates’ standard of care.


Team approach

They are captive to Dr. Craig’s views, which fall within acceptable professional opinion, but which are by his own admission unusual in their level of conservativeness. Under normal circumstances, we would have the option to go with those views or seek something more mainstream or typical. They do not have that choice. Lawyer and mental-health advocate Mark Gruchy

To give inmates more choice, he said, another psychiatrist should be hired to work with Craig to create a team-oriented approach.

“It should’ve happened years ago,” said Gruchy, adding that it’s a logical option now that the construction of a new prison seems to be on hold. “The diversity of opinion would produce balance.”

Gruchy noted that creating a rotation of psychiatrists in the province’s prisons was one of the recommendations made in the 2012 peer report, conducted by Philip Klassen, a forensic psychiatrist and assistant professor at the University of Toronto — the same report that found Craig meets acceptable standards of care for inmates.

“The report pointed out that the standard of care should not be substantial variability in and outside prison,” said Gruchy, adding that a close look should be taken to see if any of these recommendations have been implemented.

The other problem, Gruchy said, is that health care at HMP is delivered through adult corrections, not the health-care authorities.

Gruchy suggests uniting the two to have prisons follow the same guidelines.

“There’s a sharp division,” he said. “(HMP) doesn’t have the same stability.”

Dr. Nizar Ladha was also asked to comment on Wednesday’s story, but he declined.

Meanwhile, the reaction to Wednesday’s story continues to grow, with many comments made on The Telegram website and on social media.

Many support Craig, including several colleagues, nurses and even prisoners, while others continue to slam his methods.

One comment from “Bob,” said, “This is a very difficult job with what can be a very challenging population. I have worked with Dr. Craig in this setting and have always felt that he was doing the right thing for the right reasons.”

Another, from “Marquis,” said, “Is this so-called doctor using our prisoners, our sons, to experiment on? … In my opinion, this doctor is frightening and it’s also frightening that he can do this while our government that oversees the provincial prison system turns a blind eye.”



Organizations: Community Coalition for Mental Health, Canadian Mental Health Association, University of Toronto The Telegram

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Recent comments

  • Dee
    January 07, 2016 - 23:44

    Dr Craig has been around for a long time now wether he is rude and to the point remember this doctor or and any of them hadnt put your love ones in jail,doctors did not make them stick needles in their arms of make them snork Rickki,s or take any othe drugs,must drug addicted cons are there because they are street thugs that maybe never worked a day in their life but spent it out on the streets trying to get their fix or selling to kids,do you know how high school kids out there are already addicted to RX drugs,a lot let me tell you where do you think they get it from older street thugs who loiter around there schools.Dr Craig who I do not know at all only from what I hear sounds like he's trying to get theses pieces of crap of drugs and I guess he's not nice about it.Yes many other doctors could be responsible for giving people heavy meds for toothaches,headaches or minor surgeries,yes the patient like the feeling so much then they want more.So I think before people points fingers at this doctor maybe they should look at their up bringing and see how many brought themselves up on the street and what role their parents played in putting their kids on Ritalin,every second kid is on this garbage because must parents can control them and wants the government pension because they have problems,now look mom and dad where you kid is,he is someone elses problem. Now

    • look in the mirror
      January 08, 2016 - 15:34

      We sure do have a problem with drugs here, we also have a problem with illiteracy & the ignorance that goes along with it. The world isn't black & white & human beings aren't "pieces of crap". I'm sure my upbringing was as good as yours any day & I have some compassion for those that have gone astray & need some help getting back on the right track. Education would give people like you a better insight to the workings of peoples minds & the way they react to any given environment. I'm just as concerned by the attitudes of people like you as I am drugs, both are destroying our society. If you have children that are exposed to your attitude I feel sorry for them, a parent that teaches their kids to hate will be just as big a problem as those that have no guidance.

  • Drugs not always the answer
    January 07, 2016 - 15:09

    @DWI Cathy was stating a straightforward view without resorting to character assassination. Give it a try sometime. As for Dr. Craig's approach, I don't share your opinion that it constitutes mistreatment. Quite the contrary, he is using his medical expertise and experience to save some prisoners from the long term damage associated with over-prescribing. And in the process he is making more, not less, likely they can be safely reintegrated into society.

  • cathy
    January 07, 2016 - 11:22

    Mark, they are in jail they gave up there right for choices. Their choice was between right and wrong, they chose wrong, consequences of your actions. Does anyone have a choice in choosing a doctor? I have been waiting 10 months for a specialist appointment. I think an imate will be seen quicker than me.

    • DWI
      January 07, 2016 - 11:52

      There are many reasons people are in prison, not least of them because of mental health issues. Ignoring those issues and mistreating them doesn't help anyone -- even if it somehow makes small people like you feel superior (and you aren't).

    • Cathy
      January 08, 2016 - 14:54

      DW No I don't think I am superior over anyone. I said nothing of thinking it is alright for anyone to be missed treated. Mental Illness is a very serious issue. But fair is fair people everywhere are waiting for doctors. The fact they are in jail, they forfeited their rights. Seems like a lot of these issues are inflicted by drug abused. So they rob, murder,assaulted innocent people then want the same people to pay for their rehab or better yet keep doling out more drugs while n jail. Seems as though a lot are repeat offenders. So what Are you going to do. Seeing you are so grandio in judging me speak and tell us all what we are doing wrong you seem to have the answers.

  • Jeff
    January 07, 2016 - 10:53

    He feels confident in second-guessing other psychiatrists' decisions; I'm sure he would welcome someone to re-examine his. Heathcare should be delivered by a multi-disciplinary team, not one man on a mission.

  • jane
    January 07, 2016 - 10:01

    YES! thank you! Over-prescribed drugs are a problem. Drug Addiction is a problem but lets be clear - Dr. Craig does NOT have the cure for addiction. Acting as a vigilante and arbitrarily disregarding other doctors opinions is not only ineffective, but is unethical. I hope we move towards a system that supports and practices harm reduction and understands mental health, patient rights and duty of care.

    • ALISON
      March 08, 2016 - 01:04

      YES to your comment. this man is not doing one thing to combat addiction. he has a god complex for sure. how is taking people off of their prescribed psychiatric meds anything to do with helping combat addiction . guess what, it simply is not . and the drugs that are addictive( (minus sleeping pills),and there is a place for sleeping pills , in spite of them being addictive. ) are not psychiatric meds. you cannot sell your anti depressants, there is no market. This man is not someone to admire. unethical sounds understated.

  • N
    January 07, 2016 - 10:00

    Prison is meant to be an avenue for rehabilitation of those who break the law. Part of the rehabilitation would have to be working with people addicted to prescription drugs and those who are misdiagnosed. Dr. Craig is trying to do this. The Mental Health advocate should be lobbying the government for better counseling and drug rehab facilities in HMP This would be of a much greater long term benefit to the the inmates then keeping them addicted and over medicated or having Dr. Craig working with sub-standard assistance.

  • Randy
    January 07, 2016 - 05:30

    Keep the prisoners doped up at taxpayers expense? No wonder this guy ran for the NDP in the election

  • Nick
    January 07, 2016 - 03:08

    It's incredible I think that many has challenged Dr. Craig's qualifications (and he has been vindicated over and over by other professionals) yet no one questions the qualifications of a "well known mental health advocate". Being a former patient, as the article implies, makes one no more qualified to decide mental health strategies than being a passenger on a plane qualifies someone as a pilot. Only in our broken system where a few bad physicians get to flood our streets with benzodiazepines, Ritalin, and opioids, would Craig's evidence-based medicine approach be considered "conservative". Most "street drugs" in Newfoundland did not get there from illegal drug labs or pharmacy robberies, most were prescribed and obtained legally. Would a more modern prison facility with more mental health and addiction resources benefit our society? Sure, without a doubt. The fact we have offenders seeking longer prison terms to avail of services on the mainland should tell us that. But no way does this mean there is something wrong with Dr. Craig's methods. Dr. Craig, in his interview, says he tries to get patients down to one antidepressant and/or one antipsychotic medication and no benzodiazepines if possible. I almost spit my coffee reading this. Very few mental health patients anywhere require more than this yet if he's needing to use this as a starting point then we have some serious problems with how mental health is being managed in the community in Newfoundland. Maybe, instead of attackng one of few actually improving our system like Dr. Craig is, this mental health advocate could go after that problem.

    • Well said Nick!
      January 07, 2016 - 11:53

      Well said Nick! Couldn't agree with you more!

  • EDfromRED
    January 07, 2016 - 01:45

    Judging by the increase in savage Vandalism and Violence at the HMP, the evidence would NOT be on Dr. Craig's side.

  • Gruchy and Craig are professional and true
    January 06, 2016 - 22:28

    I support both Gruchy and Craig as honest professionals trying to make a difference. Working from conviction of conscience. Professionally. If they could be interviewed together by a competent media personality it would make for a real and informative experience for readers. Viewers much more so. It is still barely Communitas , 3 min to 12, on the 6th. Folks in jail need leadership, just like us loosely-goosey people on the outside, with all the freedoms. I mean, the story under a more conservative government in a few years could be - read all about it- Loosey-Goosey people on too much drugs; prison model being evaluated.

  • Randy
    January 06, 2016 - 21:17

    Mark Gruchy is a well-known NDPer with no medical qualifications and a history of representing perps most people would be scared to walk the streets with. He has ZERO credibility