Mental Wellness: An integral part of Safe and Secure Spaces
Safety is crucial towards realizing a brighter future for our city. We cannot have safe streets if we fear each other. We cannot address housing if we continue to build bigger fences to keep people out. We cannot see addiction, mental health, and other conditions with compassion if we deem “those people” unworthy of our care.
Love is the foundation of everything this campaign is about. Without it, any policy, relationship, or program we put forward is doomed to fail, because it is predicated on fear. I trust in love as the antidote. Together, we will address the underlying factors contributing to crime, and create a city where everyone can gather without fear. As we face these challenges, we will rise together, driven by love. As mayor, I will:
1. Support alternatives to police response to mental health calls
If you ask front-line police officers, the vast majority would indicate that they are not the best equipped to respond to people in a mental health crisis. But who is going to do it? If we are going to criticize one response, we need to have a viable solution in its place.
Short term strategies
- Support crisis call diversion programs that divert eligible 911 calls to mental health professionals;
- Support, with predictable and sustainable funding, mental health response units that partner police with mental health professionals;
- Work with City staff responsible for the Safe TO: Community Safety and Well-Being Plan. This will involve analyzing which priorities are not working, adding more supports to priorities that are having the most impact, and implementing priorities which have not started.
Photo Source: Safe TO: Toronto’s Ten Year Community Safety and Well-Being Plan (p. 22-23)
- Analyze and expand non-police response alternatives that have started with SafeTO priority 1.1.
- Increase prevalence, accessibility, and capacity of mental health services across Toronto, including culturally specific and naturopathic options.
2. Establish more safe adult day shelters across the city and expand services to support unsheltered populations and those with mental health concerns and addictions in Scarborough, North York, Etobicoke and the downtown core.
3. Implement community-based prevention programs to address gun violence. This requires recognizing the public health aspects of the issue, and empowering and resourcing grass roots organizations (i.e. Zero Gun Violence Movement), in a community by community response. Program structure can closely resemble the Communities that Care (CTC) initiative, developed by University of Washington researchers, that has shown significant promise, including a return on investment of $11 for every $1 spent, and a reduction in youth gun carrying by 30% in one year.
4. Update Toronto’s overdose prevention action plan. Toronto already has a comprehensive response to overdose prevention. The plan clearly outlines the roles of the provincial and federal governments, but it is dated. Much of the actionable items have already been completed, but serious updates are required. Of critical urgency is ensuring that detox and treatment options are available at supervised injection sites, within and outside of the core of the city. It is time to update the existing plan and call on the provincial government to provide predictable, sustainable, long-term funding that will create healthier communities, save lives, and provide a public health approach to addiction.
5. Work with TDSB and TCHC to support programs at school buildings and in community centres that provide diversionary activities and help to rebuild resiliency in youth who have felt the effects of the pandemic on their mental and physical health.
6. Implement $10 day care in all priority communities within the first 12 months, and across Toronto by 2025.
7. Leverage Toronto Police Services RBDC Strategy to assess gaps and fund social programs that require additional support. In exploring this data the City can:
- Tackle the limitations of utilizing policing as a tool for social issues and get a clearer picture of where gaps exist.
- Eliminate silos which prevent us from understanding upstream issues and solutions which various services can be a part of.
- Push for better data integration and more comprehensive data collection across the city’s services, as well as partner organizations in sectors like health.