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Toronto Police Service and Gerstein Crisis Centre extend call diversion pilot project for a second year

June 23, 2022  By Blue Line Staff


June 22, 2022, Toronto, Ont. – The Toronto Police Service (TPS) and Gerstein Crisis Centre (GCC) have announced the collaboration to respond to individuals in crisis calling 9-1-1 with non-emergent mental health needs, is being extended in principle for a second year.

Since October 4, 2021, a GCC crisis worker has been co-located in the TPS Communications Call Centre, 20 hours a day, 7 days a week. TPS and GCC responders work collaboratively, but distinctly, to assist in the diversion of non-emergent mental health related calls away from a police response.

TPS call-takers evaluate incoming calls for diversion based on specific non-imminent risk criteria and transfer calls to the GCC crisis worker in the pilot area (Divisions 51, 52 and 14). The GCC crisis worker assists individuals in crisis by providing immediate support and intervention, referrals and connection to further services as needed.

If at any time a call requires a police response, the crisis worker can assist in the preliminary de-escalation until police and/or a Mobile Crisis Intervention Team (MCIT) arrive. The co-located crisis workers are also connected to the City’s new Toronto Community Crisis Service teams and have the option to send a non-police team to respond.

Between October 4, 2021, and June 12, 2022 the pilot project successfully diverted 422 events from the need for police attendance, including 182 events diverted in the pilot area (Divisions 51, 52 and 14) and 240 events diverted outside the pilot area where call takers and crisis workers thought they could be of assistance.

The pilot project also assisted police response in an additional 247 events across Toronto by providing support to the person in crisis, or the complainant, while police attended and provided follow up as requested.

This pilot project extension supports the recent report tabled by Toronto’s Auditor General: Review of the Toronto Police Service – Opportunities to Support More Effective Responses to Calls for Service, which outlines the need to explore alternative models of police response where appropriate.

This project also supports the Toronto Police Services Board’s 81 Recommendations on Police Reform, calling for the development of alternative models of community safety response for mental health calls for service. The first year of this pilot project was budgeted at $522,000 within the Service’s 2021 operational budget and remains on track. Estimated costs will be similar for the second year and funded within the Service’s 2022 operational budget pending approval.


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