• Councillor Mark Grimes

Toronto City Council supports community-led solution to respond to mental health crisis calls

Toronto City Council unanimously approved implementing the City of Toronto’s Community Crisis Support Service pilots, including the selection of four community partners who will deliver the service to be piloted in four areas of the city, starting this spring and summer.

The report “2022 Launch of Community Crisis Support Service Pilots and Policing Reform Updates” was one of Mayor John Tory’s key items at this City Council meeting and is an important step in advancing the City’s commitment to deliver an alternative service delivery model of community safety.

The new community crisis support service will provide a community-led solution to respond to mental health crisis calls and wellness checks. All four pilots will be geographically-based, operating in areas of Toronto where apprehensions under Ontario’s Mental Health Act and 911 calls for people in crisis are the highest.

The new service, led in partnership with four community partners – TAIBU Community Health Centre, Gerstein Crisis Centre, 2-Spirited People of the 1st Nations, and the Canadian Mental Health Association Toronto – will launch in two phases, with the pilots in the northeast and downtown east anticipated to start by March 2022 and those in the northwest and downtown west by June 2022.

The pilots will seek to better support community health, wellness and safety by introducing an alternative model of crisis response that is community-led, person-centred, trauma-informed and focused on harm reduction. They will also allow the City to test, evaluate, and revise a non-police led crisis response before implementing it at a larger scale and will:

  • Feature mobile multidisciplinary teams of trained crisis support specialists (community health nurses, crisis counsellors, harm reduction workers, peer workers)

  • Operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week

  • Provide case management support including follow-up support, primary health care, referrals, holistic support, trauma counselling, housing support and other individualized supports

Findhelp211, a service that provides information and referrals for community and social services 24 hours a day/seven days a week in Toronto, is an integral element of the pilots. The City has finalized a call triaging process with Toronto Police Services and Findhelp211 in which Findhelp211will be responsible for dispatching calls to the mobile teams and connecting callers to follow-up supports.

The Community Crisis Support Service pilots are one of SafeTO’s key priority actions under year-one efforts to reduce vulnerability through proactive mental health support strategies and community-led crisis support models.

The City will engage a third-party evaluator to develop an outcomes and evaluation framework, as well as report guidelines for all four pilots. Data from the evaluation will be used to inform service delivery and support necessary adjustments to the pilots to ensure operational efficiency and service excellence, as well as to help guide the expansion of the service. City-wide implementation is expected in 2025 at the latest.

The final report to Council is available here