Peel Regional Council took its first steps towards a radical shift in police response for mental health calls, after a motion to create a new delivery model emphasizing the role of support workers was approved. The motion, passed at last week’s regular regional council meeting, would provide sweeping changes to the way Peel Police respond to mental health calls – but it requires provincial approval to take effect. Brought forward by Ward 7 councillor Dipika Damerla, the motion would reduce the role of police during mental health calls, boost the region’s Mobile Crisis Rapid Response Teams, which were unveiled at the beginning of the year, and give crisis teams the ability to take the lead on calls police respond to.
According to Damerla, the issue of police response came to the forefront again after Malton resident Ejaz Choudry by Peel Police last month, as they responded to a mental distress call. According to police and statements by Choudry’s family, they had called a non-emergency line after it was discovered that Ejaz had barricaded himself in his apartment, and was diagnosed with schizophrenia. What happened next is unclear, prompting the province’s Special Investigation Unit to conduct their own study of what happened that night.
The province has not given a response to the motion as presented, as of press time, though a spokesperson for Premier Doug Ford’s office indicated that the government was “fully committed to working with our partners across government, the mental health and addictions sector, as well as our policing and public safety partners, to ensure that every Ontarian feels safe and secure in their communities, and have access to high quality services, where and when they need them.”