News Release
January 19, 2022

Today, Mayor John Tory announced details of the new Community Crisis Support Service pilot and the four community partners that will help implement and deliver the service starting this spring.

As detailed in a staff report going to Executive Committee on January 26, 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 approved by Council last year will be geographically-based, operating in areas of Toronto where apprehensions under the Mental Health Act and 911 calls for people in crisis are the highest.

In March 2021, the City initiated a competitive process to determine the service-delivery partners in each of the four pilot areas. In response to community feedback and input, service-delivery partners include organizations that are Indigenous-, Black-, 2SLGBTQ+-led and organizations guided by the voices of people with lived experiences.

The successful anchor partners are:

  • TAIBU Community Health Centre for the northeast pilot
  • Gerstein Crisis Centre for the downtown east pilot
  • The Canadian Mental Health Association Toronto for the northwest pilot
  • 2-Spirited People of the 1st Nations for the downtown west pilot

The new service will launch in two phases, with the pilots in the northeast and downtown east anticipated to be active 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 and trauma-informed, with a focus on harm reduction. The pilots will allow the City to test, evaluate and revise a non-police led crisis response before implementing it at a larger scale. The pilots will:

  • Feature mobile multidisciplinary teams of trained crisis support specialists (e.g. 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

Also integral to the pilots is the partnership with Findhelp|211 Central, an existing service that provides information and referrals for community and social services 24/7 in Toronto. The City has finalized a call-triaging process with the Toronto Police Service and Findhelp|211 Central where the latter will be responsible for triaging and 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 reporting 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 help guide the expansion of the service. City-wide implementation is expected in 2025 at the latest.

The details of the pilots are included in the staff report to be considered by Executive Committee on January 26 available online.

Also included in the staff report is a summary of the work completed to date by the City, the Toronto Police Service and the Toronto Police Services Board on policing reform. To date, 51 of 81 recommendations have been completed. Full details can be found on the Police Reform Implementation Dashboard here.

“This initiative, which will be a key component of SafeTO, will test a new community-led approach to mental health crisis calls to 911, including those involving persons in crisis and wellness checks. Residents and community organizations have made it clear that they want a non-police response, in appropriate situations, to those in crisis. This is a significant new initiative which we committed to developing so that distress calls could far more frequently be answered not by police but by mental health professionals. Now we have the first stage of that program – a Toronto made model that is community-led, person centred, trauma-informed and focused on harm reduction for calls involving Toronto residents in crisis.”

– Mayor John Tory

“I am extremely heartened with the announcement being made today. The issue we are tackling can not be easily achieved with one action. However, with the help of TAIBU Community Health Centre, Gerstein Crisis Centre, The Canadian Mental Health Association Toronto and 2-Spirited People of the 1st Nations, we have begun re-envisioning the roles police play in society and re-creating systems of public safety that increase confidence in policing and keep all Torontonians safe.”

– Chris Murray, City Manager

“For more than 30 years, Gerstein Crisis Centre has been providing Toronto communities with safe, compassionate, and respectful crisis services. This pilot will help us expand that work as we continue to support individuals experiencing mental health and/or substance use related crisis when and where they need it.”

– Susan Davis, Executive Director Gerstein Crisis Centre

“TAIBU Community Health Centre is at the forefront of the delivery of community health and social services to Black communities across the Greater Toronto Area. We are excited to be a part of delivering this new service that will reimagine a crisis response that is client-centred, trauma-informed, culturally-responsive and reduces harm.”

– Liben Gebremikael, Executive Director Taibu Community Health Centre

“As part of a larger collaborative of eight local community organizations in Toronto’s northwest, our goal is to connect people experiencing crisis to immediate support, follow-up, and case management with a solid understanding of and appreciation for the culture and context our clients are living in.”

– Michael Anhorn, Chief Executive Officer Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) Toronto Branch

“Two-Spirit people have always been leaders within their communities, caring for those who need it and sharing our traditional ways of knowing and being. The pilots create an alternative for crisis response that works to reduce the harms of colonization through a culturally grounded holistic approach to support.”

– Keith McCrady, Executive Director 2-Spirited People of the 1st Nation

“Findhelp|211 Central provides service navigation and crisis response, acting as a front door to the complex system of human and social services in Toronto. Our team will support the pilots as the community dispatch partner and take on the critical role of supporting crisis call navigation and ensuring people are connected to the services they need, when they need them.”

– Sue Wilkinson, Executive Director Findhelp Information Services 211 Central

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