Ontario government to channel portion of mental health spending to police

The Ontario government says it will invest part of the $1.9 billion it has earmarked for mental health care into training police and first responders on how to manage interactions with people dealing with mental health issues and addictions.

Announcement comes after shooting rampage on Toronto's Danforth Avenue

Speaking to reporters after Question Period, Deputy Premier and Health Minister Christine Elliott confirmed that part of the Ontario government's investment in mental health and addictions will go toward police and first responders. (CBC)

The Ontario government says it will invest part of the $1.9 billion it has earmarked for mental health care into training police and first responders on how to manage interactions with people dealing with mental health issues and addictions.

The announcement comes in the wake of a shooting on Sunday night on Danforth Avenue that left two people dead and 13 others injured.

Premier Doug Ford made the announcement in a televised interview on CTV, and Minister of Health Christine Elliott confirmed the news following Question Period on Tuesday.

"We don't have enough community treatment centres, we don't have enough services in hospitals. We need to build on those but we also need to make sure that police and first responders are trained to deal with someone who is exhibiting a mental health or a serious addiction problem," Elliott said.

"It's for the protection of the first responder, but it's also for the protection of the person with the mental health issue."

The shooter in Sunday's attack, Faisal Hussain, suffered from "severe mental health challenges," including psychosis and depression, according to a statement from his family

The statement added that medication and therapy were unable to treat him and interventions of professionals were unsuccessful. 

Toronto police officers gather on Danforth Avenue after a shooting on Sunday night in which two people were killed and 13 others were injured. (Tony Smyth/CBC)

Elliott said part of the funding will go to help police and first responders deal with mental health issues themselves.

The government has pledged to invest  $1.9 billion over 10 years in mental health and addictions services. That matches a $1.9 billion investment from the federal government, bringing the the total money allocated to the supports to $3.8 billion.

Elliott said the government hasn't determined exactly how much money will go toward police and first responders.

NDP says funding getting 'watered down'

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said she supports an investment in training officers and front line workers but she is concerned that it will take away from other much-needed mental health and addictions services.

"The big worry for me is that the important investments that we need in mental health and addictions, that this chamber has been talking about for a decade ... is going to be watered down now," Horwath said.

"Here in Ontario, we've got 12,000 children and youth who have been on waiting lists for mental health services for 18 months. That's not acceptable and it has to stop."

Elliott told reporters part of the government's mental health and addictions plan will include more provisions for mental health services in hospitals.

The government has not released any details on the specifics of its mental health plan or how money will be allocated.


Farrah Merali is an award-winning reporter at CBC Toronto with a passion for politics, investigative journalism and urban health issues. She previously worked as the early morning reporter at CBC Vancouver. Follow her at @FarrahMerali


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