Inquiry ordered into death of Alberta mental health caregiver

Client had history of violence that wasn’t communicated to mental health association or its employee
|employmentlawtoday.com|Last Updated: 08/26/2011

The death of a mental health worker on the job has prompted the Alberta government to open an inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the incident.

Valerie Wolski, 41, was a care worker for the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) assigned to care for Terrence Saddleback, a 26-year-old severely mentally disabled man in Camrose, Alta. On Feb. 13, 2011, Wolski was found dead after an overnight shift at Saddleback’s home. Saddleback was charged with manslaughter, but was found mentally unfit to stand trial. He was then sent to Alberta Hospital, where he would receive mental health assessments.

A fatality review board from Alberta Occupational Health and Safety launched a preliminary investigation, which revealed Saddleback had a history of violence. After Saddleback attacked a female care worker in July 2009 — during which it took six RCMP officers and a male CMHA employee to subdue him with pepper spray and handcuffs — a risk assessment was conducted that indicated he was a “catastrophic” threat to anyone caring for him and was prone to rage and sexual aggression. However, the Persons with Developmental Disabilities office didn’t pass the assessment on to the CMHA and Saddleback was put into a CMHA home with one-on-one care in December 2010.

The review board recommended a fatality inquiry and provincial justice minister Verlyn Olsen agreed, ordering an inquiry to be scheduled once the health and safety investigation is complete.

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