City’s executive committee OKs plan to send crisis teams to distress calls

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Toronto’s executive committee has approved a pilot project to send crisis teams to some distress calls instead of the police.

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On Wednesday, the committee approved the implementation of mobile crisis response units which could be in place by March with a price tag of $12 million.

The units would respond to mental health and distress calls and be composed of community health nurses and crisis support workers.

In 2020, the city had 33,000 calls for someone in a crisis which included suicide, well-being checks, and verbal disputes. Toronto Police officers respond to roughly 70 crisis calls a day.

The mobile units can call on police if there is a threat of violence. Police services report the 89% of crisis calls are non-violent.

“Something as sensitive as this we have got to get right over a period of time,” Mayor John Tory said.

Members of the crisis response team would be on call around the clock and include the TAIBU Community Health Centre and the Canadian Mental Health Association.

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The first phase of this pilot project will be in the downtown and the northeast — busy areas for crisis calls.

Rachel Bromberg, co-founder of the Reach Out Response Network, said the pilot is viewed positively, internationally.

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“Others are looking to us to develop these programs. This is crisis support in the moment of greatest need,” Bromberg said.

Steve Lurie, co-chair of the Toronto Police Mental Health and Addictions Panel, added there needs to be a public advertising campaign so those in distress can call the crisis teams directly and not 911.

The city is working with a branding company for uniforms and marked vehicles, so the units are recognizable to the public.

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