The Toronto Police Service has announced the expansion of its Mobile Crisis Intervention Team (MCIT) Program to cover all areas of Canada’s largest city. This brings the number of MCITs in Toronto to 6 and the program now covers all but three of the city’s police divisions. The hope is that the remaining divisions will be covered by expanding the areas served by existing MCITs. MCITs are a collaborative initiative between police services and hospitals where a police officer works alongside a mental health nurse as part of a secondary response team that arrives on the scene of a mental health crisis situation once the area has been made secure. MCITs then assess the individual in crisis and refer them to the appropriate services in the community.
The Toronto expansion comes after a careful review of available data on service call volume as well as a recent report by St. Michael’s Hospital Centre for Research on Inner City Health, which evaluated the Toronto MCIT Program. The report, which was released at the same time as the announcement, outlined several recommendations in which MCIT program implementation could be improved including:
- Increasing awareness and support for the program among Primary Response Unit (PRU) officers
- Communicating the mandate of the program and ensuring community members are aware of when it is appropriate to contact the MCIT versus the PRU
- Improved cross-over training where both the MCIT and PRU officers understand each other’s responsibilities, expertise and procedures
- More opportunities for debriefing among MCIT and PRU officers as well as ongoing program evaluation
- Increased communication between dispatch and MCITs in order to allow for timely responses to crisis situations in all divisions
CMHA Ontario has recommended the expansion of the MCITs across the province in the past and supports the expansion announced in Toronto. The next step would be to provide round-the-clock availability of MCITs as hospital emergency departments are often overwhelmed during their off hours at night and police officers end up waiting for long periods of time for the individual experiencing a mental health crisis to be seen.
To read CRICH’s full Toronto MCIT Program Implementation Evaluation Report, visit the Centre for Research on Inner City Health website.
For more information on the issue of Police-Emergency Department wait times, read the report CMHA Ontario developed in partnership with the Human Services and Justice Coordinating Committee (HSJCC) called Strategies for Implementing Effective Police-Emergency Department Protocols in Ontario.