Antigonish therapist was kept in the dark about assessment of Lionel Desmond

By Katherine Murphy    
February 19 2020

GUYSBOROUGH – The federal Department of Veterans Affairs had crucial information about Cpl. Lionel Desmond’s mental health that it did not share with those involved in the former soldier’s treatment for PTSD in N.S. That troubling revelation was shared at the Desmond Fatality Inquiry in Guysborough on Thursday, Feb. 13.

Veterans Affairs case manager Marie Doucet participated in a conference call with Desmond’s care team at Ste. Anne’s Hospital in Montreal ahead of his early discharge from the veterans residential program in Aug. 2016. As case manager, Doucet was responsible for ensuring that appropriate supports and services were delivered to the Armed Forces veteran who served two tours in Afghanistan.

Sections of a report written by Doucet following the call were read aloud by Inquiry Judge Warren Zimmer. It detailed recommendations including a neuropsychological evaluation for Desmond following his discharge. But that never happened.

Desmond was discharged from Ste. Anne’s on Aug. 15, 2016, but it would be almost three months before his case manager called him with the contact information for Catherine Chambers, an Antigonish-based counselling therapist. Chambers testified in the Inquiry that based on Doucet’s brief description of Desmond’s situation, she believed working with Desmond would be a good fit.

As Judge Zimmer continued to read from Doucet’s report, Chambers learned for the first time that there were concerns about Desmond’s cognitive ability, that he had left the residential program early and about his growing distrust of the medical professionals treating him and their intentions.

During these revelations, Chambers became visibly upset.

“Part of the reason I’m reading this to you is for appreciation of what was known at the time of his discharge and…who was coming to sit in your office,” Zimmer explained. “All of this information was sitting there, and you had none of it.”

Doucet was Chamber’s point of contact concerning Desmond.

If Desmond had undergone a neuropsychological evaluation, as it was recommended by the veterans’ hospital program, the results would have been used to identify the most appropriate level of support, strategies and determine his treatment.

Because the evaluation never took place, the benchmarks of service and support that would work to improve Desmond’s quality of life were never identified.

Judge Zimmer delivered a sobering fact to the courtroom, saying, “He left (Ste. Anne’s) in August (2016), and I don’t think that we can point to any kind of therapeutic intervention or a therapeutic moment up to and including January 3rd.”

After hearing the St. Anne’s recommendations from Judge Zimmer, at the end of her testimony Chambers confirmed Desmond would not have benefited from her services, saying, “In light of this information, I don’t believe he would have been a candidate for community-based psychotherapy, but for inpatient care.”