“According to the Canadian Medical Health Association BC Division, nearly a third of people with serious mental illness have contact with police when trying to access mental health care for the first time. They are also more likely than other Canadians to be arrested or die in those interactions.
Yet, most mental health crises don’t require a police response, says Dr. Vicky Stergiopoulos, physician-in-Chief and Clinician Scientist at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto. She wants to see increased public funding for non-police emergency mental health responses. ‘The presence of police escalates the agitation, as opposed to providing the safe holding environment that someone needs to regain control of themselves,’ she says. ‘There is expertise in the mental health field on how to allow others to regain control of themselves.’
She points to the Crisis Assistance Helping Out on the Streets (CAHOOTS) service in Eugene, Oregon, where health professionals respond to mental health calls instead of police. Last year, the service responded to 17% of the local 911 calls and called for police backup less than 1% of the time. According to the CAHOOTS program, the service saves an estimated $8.5 million in public safety spending annually. Similar services exist in Sweden and the United Kingdom.”
More on Why some doctors want to defund the police via CMAJ.
Additional 2020 articles on the issue:
What we know about the last 100 people shot and killed by police in Canada via CTV News.
UBC nursing student suing RCMP officer for alleged assault after health check via The Star.
Indigenous woman killed by Edmundston, N.B., police during wellness check via CBC.
London, Ont. police officer convicted in death of Indigenous woman via CP24.
Funerals held for Toronto woman who fell from balcony and Indigenous woman shot by police via National Post.
Police kill Canadian man during mental health check via BBC News.