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More help for individuals experiencing mental health crises in Toronto

Toronto, May 7, 2014

By Geoff Koehler

Image of Mike Federico, Vicky Stergiopoulos and Rob Devitt
Toronto Police Services Deputy Chief Mike Federico speaks to members of the media about the Mobile Crisis Intervention teams which help people experiencing a mental health crisis as Vicky Stergiopoulos, Psychitrist-in-Chief, St. Michael’s Hospital, and Toronto East General Hospital CEO Rob Devitt look on at Toronto Police Headquarters. (Peter J. Thompson/National Post)

Fourteen years ago, Toronto Police Service and St. Michael’s Hospital launched the first Mobile Crisis Intervention Team in the city. Toronto Police Service has since grown the program to include partnerships with many Toronto hospitals.

And now the program has expanded again.

Today, Toronto Police Services announced that Mobile Crisis Intervention Teams will soon be available in all 17 Toronto Police Divisions across the city.

A mental health nurse and police officer specially-trained in crisis intervention make up each Mobile Crisis Intervention Team.

“Seven days a week my team and others like it across Toronto work with people experiencing mental health crises,” said Sarah Fabro, a mental health nurse with St. Michael’s Hospital and member of a Mobile Crisis Intervention Team. “Teams help to de-escalate and avert injury to everyone involved and reduce pressure on the justice and health care systems.”

Police are usually the first responders to mental health emergencies in the community. In 2011, Toronto Police Services were dispatched to almost 20,000 calls related to a mental health crisis. A mental health crisis can include thoughts of suicide or self-harm, distorted or psychotic thinking, anxiety, and overwhelming depression. Each team assesses needs and connects individuals with the most appropriate services.

The expansion announcement coincides with a report from the Centre for Research on Inner City Health of St. Michael’s Hospital. The report, led by Dr. Vicky Stergiopoulos, revealed that Mobile Crisis Intervention Teams have a positive effect on those affected by a mental health crisis.

“Mobile Crisis Intervention Teams are treating people in the community and helping to prevent unnecessary admissions to emergency departments or interactions with the justice system,” said Dr. Stergiopoulos, a scientist at the Centre for Research on Inner City Health and psychiatrist-in-chief of St. Michael’s Hospital.

The Centre for Research on Inner City Health researcher team surveyed people who had been treated by a Mobile Crisis Intervention Team.

“People who had been treated by a team reported positive experiences,” said Dr. Stergiopoulos. “They felt respected, cared for and believed they had a choice in their care.”

Teams surveyed expressed pride and were invested in the service they provided. The report showed that people in crisis were provided compassionate care and given a voice in their own care.

Since St. Michael’s Hospital and Toronto Police Services inaugural Mobile Crisis Intervention Teams, many Toronto hospitals have forged partnerships with Toronto Police Service, including:

  • Humber River Regional Hospital
  • North York General Hospital
  • St. Joseph Health Centre
  • The Scarborough Hospital
  • Toronto East General Hospital

To read the full Toronto Mobile Crisis Intervention Team (MCIT) Program Implementation Evaluation Final Report, please visit www.crich.ca/reports/mcit.

About St. Michael's Hospital

St. Michael’s Hospital provides compassionate care to all who enter its doors. The hospital also provides outstanding medical education to future health care professionals in 27 academic disciplines. Critical care and trauma, heart disease, neurosurgery, diabetes, cancer care, care of the homeless and global health are among the hospital’s recognized areas of expertise. Through the Keenan Research Centre and the Li Ka Shing International Healthcare Education Centre, which make up the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, research and education at St. Michael's Hospital are recognized and make an impact around the world. Founded in 1892, the hospital is fully affiliated with the University of Toronto.

Media contacts

For more information, or to arrange an interview, contact:

Geoff Koehler
Adviser, Media Relations
416-864-6060 ext. 6537
koehlerg@smh.ca