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New non-police mental health response pilot to focus on Centretown

Mental health

The city of Ottawa's new mental health and substance use emergency dispatch project will begin in Centretown, staff say.

In July, City council approved a plan to create a mental health emergency dispatch line and mobile crisis team that would be available 24/7, similar to 9-1-1.

The goal is to establish a new number that residents can call other than the police. A non 9-1-1 phone number would triage calls and dispatch response. A 24/7 mobile team would respond and be led by civilian professionals with expertise in mental health and substance use crises. The city says non-uniform responders would offer trauma-informed and culturally appropriate crisis response services.

In a memo Tuesday, Clara Freire, general manager of community and social services, said the group tasked with selecting the first neighbourhood for the project was unanimous in deciding on Centretown.

The neighbourhood was chosen because of its high community need, central location, and urban accessibility.

"Data on mental health and substance use-related police involvement and emergency department visits underscored a significant need in the chosen geography," the memo says.

"Geography allows for the crisis response team to connect with clients on foot or using a van for more discrete intervention."

A request for proposal will be launched next week to select a not-for-profit social service organization to lead the program.

"Applicants will be encouraged to collaborate with other not-for-profit organizations to execute various aspects of the prototype, and they will be encouraged to incorporate details about these partnerships within their application," Freire wrote.

The deadline to apply will be Oct. 27. Council will be informed of staff decisions in mid-November.

Somerset ward Coun. Ariel Troster said she is "delighted" that the program will begin in Centretown.

"When this project is launched, Centretown residents and visitors will finally have a place to call when we witness a neighbour in distress," she said on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter.

"This evidence-based and radically compassionate approach will connect people with community health and social service resources while also de-escalating conflict and freeing up police to deal with more serious criminal matters."

The program is expected to launch in the fall of 2024. Top Stories

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