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Toronto experts say police shouldn't be responding to people with mental illness

Mental health experts from The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) in Toronto say police should not be the ones responding to situations where people are in a state of mental distress.

The centre released a public statement on police interactions with people in a mental health crisis Tuesday morning, and it states that a new direction is needed in crisis care in order for mental health emergencies to be adequately and safely addressed. 

"Recent events have exposed the tragic outcomes that can occur when people with mental illness experience a crisis in the community and are not able to get the care that they need. Racism and anti-Black racism compound these crisis interactions," reads the statement.

"CAMH, along with our mental health system partners, has been advocating for years for measures to improve crisis care.  It's clear we need a new way forward."

The statement comes following the tragic death of Regis Korchinski-Paquet, who fell to her death from the the 24th floor of a Toronto apartment building while police were performing a "wellness check" on her. 

More recently, police in Malton shot and killed a 62-year-old man with schizophrenia named Ejaz Ahmed Choudry while he was in an obvious state of distress.

"Mental Health is Health. This means that people experiencing a mental health crisis need health care," notes the statement. 

"Police should not be the first responders when people are in crisis in the community. Police are not trained in crisis care and should not be expected to lead this important work."

Instead, CAMH is advocating for a new direction in crisis care that includes learning from international models where people in crisis are first met by mental health responders. 

The centre also says it's important to invest in community mental health resources and intervene earlier to prevent crisis escalation.

"For too long, the health care system has relied on police to respond to mental health crises in the community. Transformative change is needed to support a new way forward," they wrote. 

"People with mental illness and their families deserve better."

Lead photo by

CAMH


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