Expanding Mental Health Crisis Response

By Kevin Masterman, Toronto Police Service Published: noon April 29, 2021

The Service is expanding the number of Mobile Crisis Intervention Teams as well as increasing the number of specially trained officers on the road to provide a bolstered 24/7 mental health crisis response this year.

A group of four people in front of an MCIT van
MCIT Constable Mike Scott and Nurse Jennifer Derbyshire with Michael Garron Hospital President & CEO Sarah Downey and Deputy Chief Peter Yuen

“This is not a plan for Toronto Police Service or the hospitals,” said Deputy Chief Peter Yuen, the MCIT Steering Committee Co-Chair. “This is an inclusive plan that has received lots of consultation with our partners in hospitals, TPS members, nurses and the mental health community. It is a collaborative effort and not a TPS-specific program.”

The changes, include:

  • Expansion of MCITs from 10 to 13 teams
  • Including, one new Downtown Team (covering 14, 51 & 52)
  • MCIT Level 1 Training from 40 to 80 hours
  • 20 hours of training related to Diversity, Inclusion & Human Rights
  • One MCIT-trained Divisional Crisis Support Officer (DSCOs) on every shift by end of year
  • Allows MCITs to be first responders along DSCOs
  • Crisis worker at Communications to help divert calls for mental health response
  • Second case manager providing short-term follow-up for those not in need of emergency treatment
  • New uniforms and vehicles for MCIT officers and nurses with input from stakeholders in mental health community

This expansion will allow MCITs alone to answer 45% more calls, than the 7,000 they did last year.

Yuen said the work continues to have teams working 24 hours a day.

The expansion comes out of recommendations by the TPSB Report on Police Reform in Toronto.

Sarah Downey, the other MCIT Steering Committee Co-Chair, welcomed the expansion.

“This is a very happy moment for the MCIT,” the Michael Garron Hospital President & Chief Executive Officer said. “The expansion is terrific news and I am really thrilled that we have a top-notch advisory committee now in place to help us navigate some of the complex issues about the place of policing in mental health crises, the need for a far more comprehensive mental health system and more options for people in crisis to get care and service.” 

The Service is also developing a public-facing data portal which will be updated weekly and provide statistics by Division on the outcomes of MCIT calls for service, Mental Health Act apprehensions, and de-escalation outcomes.

For the last 21 years, the MCITs have been responding to calls involving people in mental health crisis, including thoughts of suicide or self-harm threats, distorted or psychotic thinking, anxiety and overwhelming depression.

The officer and the nurse assess an individual's specific needs, provide intervention and support at the scene, de-escalate the situation and ensure the person is connected to appropriate services.

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