City of Toronto report on policing recommends pilots for community safety and crisis response program

A City of Toronto report to be considered by Executive Committee at its meeting of Wednesday, January 27 recommends the approval of four community safety and crisis support service pilots. These pilot programs would allow for non-police led response for non-emergency, non-violent calls including those involving persons in crisis and for wellness checks.

The pilots respond to City 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: http://app.toronto.ca/tmmis/viewAgendaItemHistory.do?item=2020.CC22.2

If approved by Council, three pilots will be implemented in:

  • 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) and
  • Downtown East (Wards Spadina-Fort York and Toronto Centre)
These areas are where apprehensions under the Mental Health Act and calls for people in crisis are the highest in Toronto.

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.

The 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.

After the initial crisis intervention, the service will provide follow-up care including case management, mental health counselling, substance use support and referrals to other services.

The pilots were developed using data and insights shared through 33 community roundtables, the Accountability Table (made up of community leaders to monitor and support development and implementation of community-led safety response models) and surveys conducted this past fall. In two public surveys launched in October and November, thousands of respondents indicated the need for a community crisis support service for Toronto.

The proposal includes an operating budget allocation of $1.7 million in 2021 to 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 during implementation will include an assessment of funding requirements for future budget years.

The report is available at: http://app.toronto.ca/tmmis/viewAgendaItemHistory.do?item=2021.EX20.1

Information on submitting a comment or speaking about the pilot program at Executive Committee on January 27 is available at: https://www.toronto.ca/legdocs/tmmis/have-your-say.htm.

Quotes:

"We are working to ensure Toronto residents experiencing crisis have access to a response that is client-centred, trauma-informed, and reduces harm. We can tap into the deep knowledge of our community health care providers who are experienced in mental health and substance use issues. This will help ensure we focus police resources on violent crimes. This pilot is a step in the right direction and will be a great resource for Toronto residents experiencing a non-violent crisis.”

- Mayor John Tory

“In late 2020, City staff met with Indigenous, Black, Francophone, and LGBTQ2S+ communities, refugees, people experiencing homelessness, people with disabilities, and people with mental health and substance use issues to gather lived experiences to inform the design of this pilot. Thousands of people provided us with great insight as to what Toronto residents want and expect in a community crisis support service. Now we are turning these insights into pilot programs to better serve these communities.”

- Chris Murray, City Manager

“A loss of trust due to long-standing systemic racism has made Black, Indigenous and equity-deserving communities less likely to call the police when a crisis occurs. I have long advocated for a non-police led response to those in crisis, and this pilot is an encouraging step toward improving the effectiveness of our emergency services and regaining the trust of these communities.”

- Deputy Mayor Michael Thompson (Scarborough Centre)

“I am pleased to see the development of a non-police led pilot to assist Toronto residents get the help they need with mental health and substance use issues. Making the initial call when in distress can be the hardest part, and we want to make it easier for people to get help in a service that is community based, community led, and based in health care, not traditional policing.”

- Councillor Shelley Carroll (Don Valley North)

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