Toronto City Council has unanimously approved four community safety and crisis support service pilots that will test a new, non-police led approach to non-emergency, non-violent calls, including those involving persons in crisis and for wellness checks.
“This is a step in the right direction. These pilots are being done in the right way with the best advice from our professional staff and they will help Toronto residents experiencing a non-violent crisis,” Mayor John Tory said. “These are the first important steps along the road to having many of these calls for people in distress answered by professionals other than the police. Toronto police respond to around 30,000 mental health calls a year. This change will not only see mental health professionals applying their skills and training to incidents where that will be a better answer, but it will also allow police to focus on core policing priorities such as violent crime.”
The pilots respond to Council’s direction to staff in June 2020 for changes to policing in Toronto and for the City Manager to develop a non-police led, alternative community safety response model for calls involving Toronto residents in crisis. See here
Three of the pilots will be implemented in areas where apprehensions under the Mental Health Act and calls for people in crisis are the highest in Toronto:
- Northwest Toronto (Wards Etobicoke North, Etobicoke Centre, York Centre and Humber River-Black Creek)
- Northeast Toronto (Wards Scarborough Southwest, Scarborough Centre, Scarborough-Agincourt, Scarborough North, Scarborough-Guildwood and Scarborough-Rouge Park)
- Downtown East (Wards Spadina-Fort York and Toronto Centre)
A fourth pilot will serve Indigenous communities, recognizing the history of Indigenous peoples and their negative experiences with policing. This pilot will be Indigenous-led and co-developed with Indigenous communities.
All four pilots will work with health care providers, including community health centres and not-for-profit organizations that provide mental health and substance use services, to ensure user-centred care continues after the initial intervention. The pilots will create multidisciplinary teams of crisis workers with training in mental health and crisis intervention, de-escalation, situational awareness and field training, prior to the pilots’ launch.
The pilots were developed using data and insights shared through 33 community roundtables, the Accountability Table of community leaders who monitor and support development and implementation of community-led safety response models, and surveys conducted this past fall. In two public surveys in October and November, thousands of respondents indicated the need for a community crisis support service for Toronto.
In 2021, the pilots will begin hiring, training and developing resources, such as determining how those in distress will reach the service, with the goal of being fully operational from 2022 to 2025. A review of the pilots each year will include an assessment of funding requirements for future budget years and determine if there are opportunities to scale up the program to full capacity before 2025.
Tory also tabled a number of motions, approved by Council, including the review of 911’s current operations and to explore the feasibility of moving 911 out of the Toronto Police Service into a non-police City service allowing for the most appropriate response to a 911 call – including calls for people in crisis. The motion also asks that the Auditor General prioritize the planned audit this year of 911’s operations.
The motion also asked that the Province commit to funding for supportive housing and service providers for mental health, including funding to address the mental health impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The report and motions are available here