“Mental health is a health issue and a social issue. We need a fully-integrated all-hands-on-deck approach.” – Mark Saunders
Toronto - Today, Mark Saunders shared his comprehensive plan to increase access to treatment and wrap-around mental health and addictions supports for those who are struggling.
For decades, Toronto has faced a growing mental health and addictions crisis, made even worse by the pandemic. From 2020 to 2021, Toronto Police Service responded to more than 35,000 "Person in Crisis" calls made to 911. City Council has failed to provide the necessary resources to address the crisis outside of regular working hours.
“When it’s the police who are responding to a call for help from someone struggling with mental health or addictions because the treatment beds and staff aren’t there or available outside 9-to-5, that’s a failure of the status quo,” said Mark Saunders. “We need to provide a better level of dignity to individuals than what we have now by ensuring wrap-around services are available all the time, so people can get the help they need, when they need it.”
Toronto needs a fully integrated all-hands-on-deck approach to these issues. Mark Saunders has a comprehensive plan that will prioritize treatment and wrap-around supports for those struggling with mental health issues or addictions. The plan will also engage all levels of government, non-profits, and other partners to build up the workforce and infrastructure necessary to support those who need help.
As Mayor, Saunders will focus on collaboration and wrap-around supports by:
- Launching and leading a Mayor’s Wellness Circle to create an all-hands-on deck approach with the full weight of the Mayor’s Office behind it. The initiative will encourage everyone to contribute, bringing together non-profits, health partners, employers, community groups, and those with first-hand experience with recovery.
- With an emphasis on service delivery outside of 9-to-5, convening a stakeholder summit that includes representatives of the federal and provincial governments to identify gaps in existing mental health and addiction services
- Developing a wrap-around services strategy that recognizes a continuum of care between the City, Toronto Public Health and the network of community service providers to improve connectivity and coordination so that clients can easily and seamlessly access the specific supports they need throughout their journey of recovery
- Introduce an accountable case management model to establish clear agency accountability for those seeking services and supports
- Increasing the number of mobile crisis response teams to provide a more consistent and around-the-clock response
As Mayor, Saunders will also focus on treatment and rehabilitation for those struggling with addiction by:
- Providing free space in unused City-owned buildings for non-profits already providing addiction treatment but can't expand services because they can't find or afford more space, or non-profits who want to provide addiction services but can't find or afford the space. In turn, non-profits can use the money saved on rents to provide help for more people.
- In return for this space, earmarking a set number of spaces for emergency referrals from City agencies, such as police and paramedic services, the Toronto Transit Commission, Toronto Public Health, and Streets to Homes.
To support the increase in services, Saunders will build a more robust workforce and the necessary infrastructure by:
- Calling on the province to waive tuition for the next three years for Toronto residents pursuing a certificate at a Toronto college as a mental health, addiction, or supportive housing worker, and for those pursuing certification in supportive housing management.
- Hiring up to 100 of these grads to work within various City agencies that serve these clients.
- In consultation with Toronto Public Health, hiring additional public health nurses.
- Negotiating with builders of new rental buildings to include supportive units in their projects, which would be provided to non-profits to operate their own programs.
See also: Backgrounder: Toronto’s Mental Health and Addictions Crisis