Community Crisis Teams – Déjà vu All Over Again

On Tuesday February 22nd, 2022, Julian Falconer of Falconers LLP was a featured panelist for the opening day of the Community Crisis Support Services pilot training, the first of a 5-week training session titled, Making a Difference, and facilitated by The Gerstein Centre.

Other panelists included Anita Szigeti (Anita Szigeti Advocates), Jennifer Chambers (Empowerment Council), Dianne Boca (Ashley Boca Mindfulness Foundation), Susan Fraser (Fraser Advocacy), Kimberly Murray (Survivors’ Secretariat), Yusuf Faqiri (Ontario Human Rights Commission), and Dawnmarie Harriott (Working For Change), each of whom spoke about their own experience with either losing a loved one who was experiencing a mental health crisis, or who was an advocate for a person/family who lost a loved one because of inadequate or non-existent mental health support.

The new Community Crisis Support Service will provide a community-led solution to respond to mental health crisis calls and wellness checks, operating in areas of Toronto where apprehensions under the Mental Health Act and 911 calls for people in crisis are the highest. While not a first response program, by providing immediate supports within 12-72 hours after a violent incident occurs, the CCRP mobilizes local resources to address individual/group needs, coordinates community debriefings and facilitates information sharing. Long-term supports offered by the program include establishing training and education sessions, facilitating community safety audits, and fostering the development of innovative, community safety projects. Members of the public are reminded to call 911 in emergency situations.

Mr. Falconer spoke about how the more things change the more they stay the same. In the 28 years that have gone by since the Coroner’s Jury issued their 85 recommendations to the Toronto Police Service, stemming from the death of Lester Donaldson on August 9th, 1988, we continue to see the same mistakes being made. Of those 85 recommendations, nearly 20 had to do with the implementation of a mobile crisis team tailored to the City of Toronto. Sadly, nothing has changed since the Jury’s verdict, which was issued in 1994.

The death of Beau Baker on April 2nd, 2015, followed by the death of Regis Korchinski-Paquet on May 27th, 2020, are two recent examples of individuals who were experiencing a mental health crisis, and both of whom died after interacting with the police. In both situations, the respective family members, as well as the general public were left wondering why a mobile crisis team was not utilized.

Mr. Falconer expressed that working with the police is important, but a multifaceted answer is necessary to deal with mental health issues and those who experience them. The system doesn’t operate in an equitable and just way, but having these conversations, implementing these pilot projects, and advocating for those who may not be able to speak for themselves can and will save lives.

Further Resources:

City of Toronto, (January 19, 2022), “City of Toronto announces four community partners as part of the launch of the Community Crisis Support Service Pilot”, News Release City of Toronto Website.

Gerstein Crisis Centre

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