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Toronto looks to hire 100 workers for its non-police crisis response service | CBC News

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Toronto is looking to hire more front-line workers for its newest community crisis service for people experiencing mental health emergencies.

The city held a recruitment event on Wednesday to fill about 100 positions for the service — the fourth emergency response service after Toronto police, paramedics and fire services — which the city plans to expand by the end of the year.

Mayor Olivia Chow told more than 200 people at Metro Hall Rotunda that the city is proud of the service and that it would have helped her and her family when she was a teenager. Her late father had mental health issues and the service would have given her family an alternative to calling the police, she said.

“Remember, it’s a lifeline that you are offering. This is the service for you, for your city, and for your community,” Chow said

On its website, the city says the service provides a “non-police-led, community-based, client centred, and trauma-informed response to mental health crisis calls and wellness checks.”

Last year, the service received nearly 7,000 calls, with 78 per cent transferred from 911, according to Chow.

Mayor Olivia Chow told more than 200 people at Metro Hall Rotunda that the city is looking to hire about 100 people for the Toronto Community Crisis Service because the city plans to expand it citywide by the end of the year. (Alex Lupul/CBC)

Denise Andrea Campbell, executive director of the city’s social development, finance and administration division, said officials are thrilled that the service is expanding and that so many people are interested in being a part of it.

The city is looking for mobile crisis workers, 211 dispatchers and back office staff, she said. Positions are available at all five of the city’s partner agencies: Gerstein Crisis Centre, TAIBU Community Health Centre, Toronto branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association, 2-Spirited People of the 1st Nations and 211 Central.

“We are looking for a variety of people: ones that may have experience with mental health challenges themselves, for example, lived experience, ones that may have supported someone with the navigation of the systems,” she said. 

“It could be people with a social work background or another care position like nurses, crisis workers from community, people who are very interested in supporting and de-escalating situations and supporting people at their most vulnerable moments.”

Campell said the city’s partners will first interview applicants for the positions. Hiring will be followed by intense training, she added.

“We’re getting all the things ready like the radios, the vehicles, uniforms, all of those things, and then we’ll be able to launch our citywide expansion,” she said.

Denise Andrea Campbell, executive director of the city's social development, finance and administration division,
Denise Andrea Campbell, executive director of the city’s social development, finance and administration division, says the city is looking for people from a variety of backgrounds and experiences. (Tyler Cheese/CBC)

The Toronto Community Crisis Service was created with the intent of having mental health workers respond to crisis calls, rather than police. The service launched as a pilot project in March 2022. It is currently available in four areas of the city.

Mia Benight, a crisis response specialist in Scarborough for the TAIBU Community Health Centre, said the event was a good opportunity for potential employees. Benight said the expansion is happening quickly.

“It fills my heart. It’s really, really necessary. It’s important that we respond to the community crisis, housing crisis, mental health crisis. It’s beyond words and it’s working,” Benight said.

The service can be reached by calling 211 or 911.

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