Toronto City Council unanimously approved a pilot project Tuesday that will see health professionals trained de-escalation respond to crisis and mental health calls.
Police currently get dispatched to these types of calls, and this change follows global calls to de-fund police services and re-distribute some of the work they do, including responding to people in crisis.
“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,” Toronto Mayor John Tory said in a news release.
These non-police teams will only respond to non-violent and non-emergency situations.
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The new crisis services will be grouped into four units. One will serve Indigenous people living in Toronto, another will focus on Northwest Toronto, a third on Northeast Toronto, and the fourth on downtown.
The pilot project will create multi-disciplinary teams of crisis workers trained in mental health, health care, substance use, de-escalation, situational awareness, and other skills.
“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,” Tory said.
Today, City Council unanimously approved the Community Crisis Support Service Pilot.
This marks an important first step in having non-violent calls for people in distress answered by medical health professionals. pic.twitter.com/MAbOMFLEJd
— John Tory (@JohnTory) February 2, 2021