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Community safety, crisis support service pilot projects head to executive committee Wednesday

Last Updated Jan 27, 2021 at 12:03 pm EST

In response to last year’s overwhelming call to change the way the city’s police deal with people in crisis, Mayor John Tory’s executive committee will consider a new approach in key neighbourhoods.

The pilot project would see civilian workers respond to wellness checks instead of police, targeting specific areas of the city where calls for people in crisis are highest.

  • 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
  • Downtown East – Wards Spadina-Fort York and Toronto Centre

A fourth pilot will focus specifically on the city’s Indigenous communities.

“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,” City Manager Chris Murray said in a release.

“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.”

The plan will create community-led multi-disciplinary teams of crisis workers with training in mental health, de-escalation, and situational awareness.

“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,” Deputy Minister Michael Thompson said in a release.

“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.”

The proposal would cost $1.7-million this year – most of it earmarked for training – with the goal of being fully operational starting in 2022 for at least three years.