Toronto Police Service Announce Mobile Crisis Intervention Teams – Mental Health

Toronto Police Service Announce Mobile Crisis Intervention Teams – Mental Health

CFN – Mobile Crisis Intervention Teams (MCITs), comprising a mental health nurse and police officer, specially trained in crisis intervention, will soon be available to serve people facing a mental health crisis across the city of Toronto, seven days a week. 

MCITs are a partnership between the Toronto Police Service (TPS) and participating hospitals including Toronto East General Hospital, Humber River Hospital, North York General Hospital, St. Michael’s Hospital, St. Joseph’s Health Centre and The Scarborough Hospital. 

Working together, a mental health nurse and police officer assess the needs of a person in an emotional or mental health crisis and connect them with the most appropriate services. Each MCIT covers a particular TPS Division and additionally helps to de-escalate and avert injury to police, nurse and person in crisis and reduce pressure on the justice and health care systems.

MCITs respond to crisis calls from those thinking of suicide or harming themselves, or those demonstrating distorted or psychotic thinking, anxiety and overwhelming depression. 

A recent report by the Centre for Research on Inner City Health (CRICH) of St. Michael’s Hospital revealed that the partnership between the police and the mental health nurse is having a positive effect on those who were affected by a mental health crisis:

– people in crisis were provided compassionate care and given a voice in their own care;
– MCITs are helping to respond to more people in an emotional crisis;
– MCITs are helping to keep care in the community, preventing unnecessary admission to the ED and into the justice system. 

Police are usually the first responders to mental health emergencies in the community. In 2011, the TPS was dispatched to almost 20,000 calls related to a mental health crisis. To better address this issue, the first Toronto-based MCIT was formed in 2000. 

To read the full Toronto Mobile Crisis Intervention Team (MCIT) Program Implementation Evaluation Final Report, click here.



“The Toronto Police Service has worked hard with its health-sector partners to build up a network of Mobile Crisis Intervention Teams across Toronto. They have one purpose: provide the best possible help and support to those experiencing a mental health crisis. I want to extend my thanks and appreciation to all our partners for their dedication and commitment.”

Deputy Chief Mike Federico, Toronto Police Service, Co-Chair, City of Toronto MCIT Program Implementation Steering Committee 


“I’m proud of the collaboration between the police and local hospitals in helping to improve the access to services and resources for those experiencing a mental health and emotional crisis. At Toronto East General Hospital, we’ve noticed that our MCIT is having a positive impact on our community and that lives have been improved as a direct result of the intervention of the team.”

Rob Devitt, CEO Toronto East General Hospital, Co-Chair, City of Toronto MCIT Program Implementation Steering Committee.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is an MCIT? 
Mobile Crisis Intervention Teams, or MCITs, comprise a mental health nurse and police officer specially trained in crisis intervention. This duo works together to help people experiencing a mental health crisis in the community. They are a seven-day-a-week partnership between participating hospitals and Toronto Police. Working together, each MCIT assesses needs and connects the person with the most appropriate services. 

What is being announced today?
The Mobile Crisis Intervention Team program is being expanded to cover additional police Divisions where there was previously no coverage. In March, a new MCIT was established in 32 and 33 Divisions. In the summer, there will be additional MCITs available to respond to those with mental health crisis issues across all 17 Toronto Police Divisions. 

Why are MCITs needed? 
Police tend to be the typical frontline responders to mental health emergencies in the community. In 2011, the Toronto Police Service (TPS) was dispatched to almost 20,000 calls related to Emotionally Disturbed Persons (EDPs) in the community. MCITs have been formed to address this issue. In 2000, the TPS, in partnership with St. Michael’s Hospital, formally launched the first MCIT in Toronto.

Where are the new teams located? 
The new teams will be located in 32 and 33 Divisions in partnership with North York General Hospital, 23 Division in partnership with Humber River Hospital, 22 Division in partnership with St. Joseph’s Health Centre and 53 Division in partnership with Toronto East General Hospital.

What does this mean for those living with mental illness?
For those who have a mental health or emotional crisis, the city-wide expansion of the MCIT program means that there is greater access to specialized police and health care resources and help during a crisis situation. 

Other benefits include:
– providing dignified, compassionate and individualized care for a person in a vulnerable situation
– giving the client/patient a say in their own health care
– increased referrals/linkages to mental health supports
– immediate case management
– fewer police apprehensions
– community outreach to families
– opportunities to educate both mental health nurses and police officers
– partnership between MCIT and Emergency Departments (EDs) to expedite provision of care
– community partnerships with agencies in catchment area to provide referrals to and from MCIT 

How many MCITs work in Toronto?
There are six MCITs in Toronto that work out of six hospitals including: Toronto East General Hospital, St. Michael’s Hospital, Humber River Hospital, St. Joseph’s Health Centre, North York General Hospital and The Scarborough Hospital.

What are the main goals of Toronto’s MCIT program? 
The main goals of the MCIT program are to: 
1) provide prompt assessment and support to a person experiencing a mental health crisis
2) link people in mental health crisis to appropriate community services if follow-up treatment is recommended
3) de-escalate and avert injury to both police, nurse and person in crisis
4) reduce pressure on the justice system
5) reduce pressure on the health care system, for example, decrease unnecessary visits to the emergency department.

How successful have the MCITs been so far in accomplishing the goals?
A recent report by the Centre for Research on Inner City Health (CRICH) and St. Michael’s Hospital revealed that, overall, the MCITs are meeting the program’s main goals and responding to more individuals in crisis, treating people in the community and helping to prevent unnecessary admission to the ED and into the justice system. Consumers surveyed reported positive experiences with the teams and that they felt respected, cared for and had a choice in their care. Teams surveyed also said that they were proud and invested in the service they provide. To read the full report, Toronto Mobile Crisis Intervention Team (MCIT) Program Implementation Evaluation Final Report, click here.

What is the demographic of the clients served by MCITs? 
Any person, regardless of age, gender or nationality, can experience a mental health crisis, so MCITs can and will attend to people of all ages as needed. 

How do MCITs work?
When 9-1-1 receives a call related to an EDP, primary response unit (PRU) officers are dispatched to assess the safety of the situation and evaluate whether it is appropriate for an MCIT to respond. If it is appropriate, the MCIT will be dispatched to the call by the Toronto Police Communications centre. The Communications centre occasionally receives calls from community agencies, family members and consumers asking for the MCIT to attend. MCITs also occasionally respond directly to radio calls. 

What types of calls do the MCITs attend? 
MCITs respond to a mental health crisis including thoughts of suicide or self-harm, distorted or psychotic thinking, anxiety, overwhelming depression and those who may be suffering from a temporary breakdown of coping skills. 

What types of calls do they NOT respond to?
MCITs do not respond to calls regarding individuals who are intoxicated on drugs or alcohol, violent individuals or people with weapons, or overdoses. 

Are MCITs available 24/7? 
The teams operate seven days a week and, depending on the team, will work as early as 6 a.m. and as late as 11 p.m. The hours are based on times where police receive the highest number of calls for people experiencing a mental health or emotional crisis. Toronto Police is available 24/7 to attend 9-1-1 calls involving an emotional crisis.

Are there plans to expand the hours covered by the MCITs? 
The recent report done by CRICH provided some insight into a number of areas where we can further investigate and evaluate the efficacy of MCITs. As new MCITs are implemented, we continue to monitor their effectiveness and gather data about the community and the people they serve. Through partnerships with the Toronto Police and local hospitals, we are fully committed to improving the quality and access of care for those experiencing mental health and emotional crises. At this time, there are no plans to expand the hours covered by MCITs but, as we continue to monitor the program, the decision to do so will be based on evidence and community need. 

When a team is working with one client, doesn’t it mean that there is no MCIT in that Division able to respond to another mental health crisis? What happens then? 
There is generally only one MCIT available at one time in each Division. If the team is in the ED or on another call, the PRU, or regular police, will respond to the crisis. All police are trained to respond to people with mental health illness. In 2011, the TPS was dispatched to almost 20,000 calls related to a mental health crisis. Even when on another call, the MCIT is available via cellphone to PRU for consultation. 

The CRICH report also suggested that Primary Response Unit officers and MCITs receive more training, particularly “cross-over” training in each other’s areas of expertise to help make the partnership among nurse and police officer more seamless. Is there any increased training available? 
The MCIT program continues to improve to better serve those with mental health crises. Over the last year, the TPS and its health care partners have been committed to better train and educate the teams. For example, all new teams will now take a one-week specialized MCIT course that includes training on understanding mental health disorders and the advanced use of force safety and de-escalation simulation. An MCIT education plan has recently been implemented to provide further education to teams and officers as well create a forum for ongoing discussion. 

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4 Comments on "Toronto Police Service Announce Mobile Crisis Intervention Teams – Mental Health"

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Tatiana Stergiou
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I am having an extremely hard time believing the statement that ALL police officers are TRAINED in handling mental health crisis! If fact, I am convinced that this is absolutely an unsupported statement. If they are trained why are so many people with mental illnesses are getting killed by the police, and what is the most outrageous, they go unpunished, continue their poor jobs, or still get paid while on trial? I don’t believe that this program would be beneficial to people in need, because of the highly publicized police practices to keep permanent records of people in contact with… Read more »
Hugger1
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So, what is the solution?

Tatiana Stergiou
Guest
so, what is the solution? First of all, why don’t you use your real name as it is requested at the sign up. In a democratic society people should not be afraid of their honest opinions. If there is no criticism, there is no change to improve; there will be stagnation. And that is precisely what is happening with the Toronto Police services. As for suggestions I have a few. First and foremost: 1) a minimum a BA degree in Psychology, Sociology & alike should be a must requisite for police recruits. Only with education and a sweat of studying… Read more »
Hugger1
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My use of a pseudonym has been approved by the Admin. I use it because my wife works for a local municipality. I will not jeopardize her career due to some of the things I’ve said or will say.

You offer some good ideas. But police are there to police the situation, not provide mental health diagnosis. Attitudes must change, it won’t happen overnight.