A psychiatrist treating a mentally-ill man who stabbed and killed five young people at a Calgary house party six years ago says his patient has made progress but any new freedoms will be granted slowly.
Dr. Santoch Rai told the Alberta Review Board on Tuesday that Matthew de Grood remains at Edmonton’s Alberta Hospital but has stayed overnight at his parents' home in Edmonton seven times and has taken hospital transportation to scheduled appointments in the city.
Rai said de Grood has not yet taken public transit or transitioned to a group home, largely due to a change in his antipsychotic medication from an oral version to one that is injected.
“We’re recommending to the board that there be no changes. But there is a possibility that he could transition to a group home. In my view, that’s probably unlikely in the next year,” said Dr. Rai.
“In view of his highly publicized and well-known face in Edmonton and in Alberta, our impression was that he should initially go on hospital transport and after a period go on public transport,” he said.
“It’s not that we did not feel he was capable functionally to use public transport. It was just an attempt to manage his stress, or exposure to stress, in a very incremental way.”
De Grood, who is now 29, was found not criminally responsible for the 2014 killings of Zackariah Rathwell, Jordan Segura, Kaitlin Perras, Josh Hunter and Lawrence Hong because he was suffering from schizophrenia at the time.
Rai told the review board he is happy with de Grood’s progress and that the patient has been volunteering with Meals on Wheels.
Rai said de Grood knows the risk if he were to stop taking his medication and wants to be able to “contribute to society” if he gets out.
“It’s so far effective. While I transition to the new medication, I want to make sure it works. So I’ll always be checking my relapse prevention plan to make sure I’m having any sign of the symptoms,” de Grood told the hearing.
“The last thing I would want ever is to decompensate. I know what happened was so bad. I’d never want anything to happen again.”
De Grood said he let hospital staff know, when he started taking the new drug, that he was having trouble sleeping and had too much energy.
“It’s a scary thing and it brings it home that this is a disease that I have and I always need to manage and be vigilant. I’m doing what I can to make sure it never surfaces again.”
Rai said de Grood still poses a significant risk to reoffend if he stops taking his medication.
The chair of the review board said he was concerned about de Grood suffering a possible relapse.
“Even if he takes his meds, he could suffer mild to moderate relapse for various reasons. Even privileges that are supervised are a concern. He overpowered five young adults who were subject to extreme violence. They lost their lives,” said Gerald Hawranik.
“What assurances can you give that even while supervised by staff or responsible adults that he won’t relapse and harm the public?”
Rai said there can never be 100 per cent certainty.
“But our assessments are based on two things. One is really a risk assessment … and also how certain we really are clinically. If something were to happen, we would be surprised and we would not have predicted that outcome.”
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