“We must do better”: Toronto is ready to launch a non-police crisis response pilot
In just over a year since George Floyd died at the hands of the police, protests and strong calls for police reform have erupted all over the world.
This is also the push that is happening here.
This prompted the City of Toronto to review its policing work, which eventually led to the establishment of a $11 million pilot project that will soon become Canada’s largest non-police alternative response plan since Freud’s murder.
The city’s executive director of social development, Denise Campbell, is leading the project, whose main task is to answer mental health calls.
Campbell said: “I hope that George Floyd’s legacy in Canada is what we are seeing now, that is, police services across the country, and communities say we must do better.”
“And in some cases, this means dismissing some of the tasks that the police have undertaken for a long time, and these tasks may not be the best for them.”
The pilot will be launched in January in Toronto’s northeast and northwest (two underserved areas in the city). The goal is to add two more by mid-2022, including a unit serving indigenous people.
This is a complex project because Toronto’s community-based mental health system is largely underfunded, and the model plans to work with organizations and employees that provide services to the department.
Although it may be a mixture of community nurses, harm reduction staff, and people who have received demotion training, there are still many things that need to be pieced together as to who will be placed on the team that responds to these calls.
The new service is likely to be available through 911 and 211, a non-emergency hotline that connects callers to community services.
But one thing is clear: it will be completely separated from the Toronto Police Department.
Beyond the police as the default setting
Campbell said: “We are now making the police the default responders to Toronto’s mental health crisis – but it won’t work.” “You can’t let people who are in the most vulnerable moments of a mental health crisis or drug abuse issue take enforcement action. This needs to be done. Health response measures.”
Toronto is by no means the only Canadian city looking for alternatives. For example, the Calgary Police Department, Already allocated 8 million yuan to invest in community services To strengthen crisis response.
According to TPS spokesperson Meaghan Gray, there are 33,000 crisis calls in Toronto each year that prompt police responses, and only one-third of them involve arrests.
“This city has our full support, and we are working hard to solve many of these problems while developing the best mental health response for our community,” she said.
“other [calls] It may be suitable for community responses that simply cannot be carried out when a crisis occurs. “
Watch | The State and Dennis Campbell held talks on a pilot project for alternative police services:
The unnamed service hopes to fill this gap.
“When someone has a mental health crisis or has a substance abuse problem, they will enter the community and provide them with all the support they need to connect them with the service-maybe a detox bed. No matter what they need to resist them Are in a crisis and want to connect them with long-term service,” Campbell said.
“This is not a response from the police.”
More crisis beds, workers also need
This sounds familiar to Susan Davis, executive director of the Toronto Gerstein Crisis Center. Her center already runs a 24/7 crisis response service in the city center and provides its own phone number for people 16 and older who are experiencing a mental health crisis.
“Before George Floyd, it was difficult to get people to talk about non-police crisis response,” Davis said, noting that her center had been doing this type of work for 30 years.
“This is really a change. It is really good to talk about non-police crisis response again.”
But Davis said the center stands ready to “do everything we can” to support such initiatives.
“Because the closer the connection between us, the better the people in crisis. If a community-based crisis infrastructure is established, with enough crisis beds and crisis workers, things will become easier,” she says.
“I think it will be a little messy for a while, but I can hardly criticize initiatives that create more community-based crisis responses.”
The funding source for the pilot project is still being determined, and Campbell insists that there is sufficient funds in the system to provide longer-term funding for it.
“Our goal now is to build a model that applies to Torontons and call on other government orders to invest in a model that can actually be prevented, proactive, and supported.”