Chronic underfunding of mental health and addiction supports has left Peel residents with few options and long wait times when it comes to mental health services in the community.

This why the Region of Peel recently took significant steps towards changing the way emergency mental health crisis calls are handled in the community.

In 2019, Peel children and youth seeking counseling and intensive treatments waited a total of 737 days for service, which was the longest in Ontario.

This number has significantly decreased since then and today, Peel Regional Police respond to 16-17 mental health interventions daily.

Recently, Regional Council unanimously endorsed a motion calling for a community-developed plan to put more Mobile Crisis Rapid Response Teams on streets in the Region of Peel.

Mobile Crisis Rapid Response Teams, in partnership with the Canadian Mental Health Association – Peel Dufferin with a specially trained Peel Regional Police officer, help to diffuse and de-escalate 911 calls for mental health crises.

The unanimous motion also calls for advocacy to change the Provincial Mental Health Act, which where appropriate, will allow mental health services to lead crisis responses in urgent mental health situations.

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“People experiencing a mental health crisis need health care, but our system simply isn’t set up to deliver the help they need in those moments of desperation. It’s time to accelerate change,” said Regional Councillor Dipika Damerla, Vice-Chair of the Health Services committee who brought the motion to Council.

Currently, police are required to lead interventions for 911 calls for mental health crises, under the legislation, but acknowledge that mental health should not be a policing matter.

When appropriate, changes to legislation formally empowering mental health workers to lead during crises, puts health care for people at the forefront of the response.

Peel’s 18-month-old Community Safety and Well-Being planning table (CSWB), a committee of elected officials, Region of Peel, police services, local municipalities, education, health and community, and social service providers, is focused on making the Region of Peel a safe, inclusive and connected place where residents can thrive.

Mental health and addictions are combined as one of the group’s three priorities along with family violence and systemic discrimination.

All three of these priorities have had pressing needs during the pandemic in Peel.

“For too long, chronic underfunding has tied the hands of our first responders as crisis calls increase. The Peel community is committed to getting our first responders modern, health-first toolkits to better diffuse and deescalate mental health emergencies, and ultimately protect the well-being of residents in need,” said Regional Councillor Johanna Downey, Chair of the Health Services Committee and a member of the Extended Leadership Table for Peel’s Community Safety and Well-being Plan.

Details about the Community Safety and Well-Being Plan for the Region of Peel will be shared this fall with the community and Regional Council.

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