Award for FOCUS on Mental Health

By Ron Fanfair, Toronto Police Service Published: 9:42 a.m. November 30, 2021

Toronto Police Service (TPS) is the recipient of the 2020-21 Yorktown Family Services (YFS) Community Partnership Award.

A Toronto sign with pond
Toronto sign at City Hall

It was presented at their virtual annual general meeting and recognition ceremony on October 27.

Since 2019, TPS has made over 500 referrals to YFS through various initiatives, including #Engage 416 and Furthering Our Community by Uniting Services (FOCUS) that is an innovative approach led by Toronto Police, the City of Toronto and United Way Toronto & York Region, that aims to reduce crime and victimization and improve community resiliency and well-being.

The model brings together the most appropriate community agencies at a weekly situation-table model to provide a targeted, wrap-around approach to the most vulnerable individuals, families and places that are experiencing heightened levels of risk in a specific geographic location.

YFS Executive Director Suzette Arruda-Santos said the award recognizes TPS’s commitment to supporting the community and connecting those most in need to immediate and appropriate services and supports through various initiatives.

“Toronto Police Service is a prime example of how law enforcement agencies can work in equal collaboration to help individuals struggling with mental health issues get the help and support they need,” she said.

Det. Brian Smith, who is the FOCUS situation table coordinator, accepted the award.

“Your contributions have forever changed our organization and the way we support members of our community,” Arruda-Santos told Smith. “It has been an absolute pleasure working with you and we consider you part of the Yorktown family.”

Smith said he’s humbled by the recognition.

“There has been much work behind the scenes over many years,” he said. “FOCUS started in 2013 and Yorktown joined two years later. Since then, there has been a lot of positive collaboration. We worked together and built one of the top Violent Extremism and Hate Prevention programs in North America and, in 2018, we leveraged FOCUS and our strong relationship with Yorktown to build the Gang Prevention Task Force as a stand alone entity. Yorktown has been a major recipient of #Engage 416 referrals with over 200 last year.”

Recently FOCUS, YFS and Sunnybrook -- with support of the Community Partnerships & Engagement Unit (CPEU) -- made a submission for provincial funding to fill major gaps in Toronto for gun violence and trauma.

“There’s a big problem when it comes to gang exit recidivism, gunshot victim transition from hospital to community, better wrap-around support to promote gang exit, including a psychological component and long term support to better gang exit,” said Smith.

Smith said Chief James Ramer should be credited for recognizing what could be achieved through the FOCUS partnerships.

“As staff superintendent, he was our Project Lead and Sponsor for our preventing violent extremism work,” he added. “As Deputy, he was Project Lead and Sponsor for the Gang Prevention Task Force.”

Since the launch of the pilot, FOCUS Toronto has expanded to include over 154 community agencies that meet six times weekly at six Situation Tables across the city.

TPS crest watermark