More Resources for Mental Health Response
The person-centred and trauma-informed service that will operate in areas of the city where there is a demonstrated need and calls for people in crisis are the highest, will focus on harm reduction.
“We are one of the partners committed to making this successful,” said Strategy Management Staff Superintendent Rob Johnson of the Toronto Police involvement in the City of Toronto initiative. “We have been collaborative on this pilot from the beginning, working to make sure that appropriate calls that meet the criteria are diverted correctly. We are fully invested in the program and want to make it work.”
Johnson said the TCCS will augment the longstanding Mobile Crisis Intervention Teams (MCIT) and new Gerstein program that are currently in place to help people in a mental health crisis. Over 33,000 mental health-related calls are made to police each year.
- MCITs respond to calls involving people in crisis, including thoughts of suicide or self-harm threats, distorted or psychotic thinking, anxiety and overwhelming depression. The teams, made up of an officer and a mental health nurse, assess an individual's specific needs, provide intervention and support at the scene, de-escalate the situation and ensure the person is connected to appropriate services.
The MCIT also provide a secondary response to 9-1-1 calls involving people experiencing a psychiatric or emotional crisis that require intervention.
- Last summer, Toronto Police also launched a pilot to divert 9-1-1 calls to the Gerstein Crisis Centre. A call-taker from the centre that provides 24-hour mental health crisis response is embedded within the Service’s 9-1-1 call centre to field mental health-related calls and refer callers to resources.
The TCCS program will allows 9-1-1 calls to diverted to 2-1-1 Toronto with the consent of the caller where a City of Toronto dispatcher will handle the call and have the ability to dispatch a mobile TCCS team to speak to the caller.
The teams will now operate 24 hours a day, six days a week with the exception of Saturday with a goal of going seven days when all the resources are in place. The new service will also provide follow-up support, primary health care, referrals, holistic support, trauma counselling, housing and other individualized support.
The TCCS is one of SafeTO’s key priority actions to reduce vulnerability through proactive mental health support strategies and community-led crisis support models. The pilots will allow the City of Toronto to test, evaluate and revise a non-police led crisis response before implementing it at a large scale.
Mayor John Tory said the TCCS launch marks an important step in advancing the city’s commitment to helping people in crisis.
“This is the first time in Toronto’s history that we are doing something like this and the introduction of these pilots reflect real change for many in our city,” added the Toronto Police Services Board member. “We want to make sure we do this right. We will learn as we go which is the purpose of these pilots and, in the process, shift how we respond to mental health crises in our city.”
Led in partnership with community groups, the TCCS was launched in the Northeast and downtown east areas of the city.
The downtown east pilot, led by Gerstein Crisis Centre, was launched on March 31 while the northwest pilot, spearheaded by TAIBU Community Health Centre, started on April 4. The northwest and downtown west pilots to be led by the Canadian Mental Health Association and the 2-Spirited People of the 1st Nations will kick off in July.