This Crisis Team Has Handled Mental Health Calls Without Cops for 30 Years


From VICE: “For many, calling 911 or going to the hospital might seem like the only options in this situation. Instead, Baird and her family doctor reached out to the Gerstein Crisis Centre, a 24/7 support community and mobile team in Toronto for people experiencing addiction and mental health crises. It’s one of the only programs of its kind in Canada. They aren’t cops, doctors, or social workers. They’re trained in nonviolent de-escalation to help people find solutions in moments of peril and beyond. Many Gerstein staff are survivors themselves, peers who understand emotional crises firsthand.

While the centre has gained a solid reputation within health and legal circles in the 30 years since it opened, it’s largely flown under the radar. Those who work there haven’t spoken with journalists much before, but they are doing so now as debates over defunding the police and reimagining responses to mental health crises are taking place around the world. Gerstein’s services are in higher demand, and they see their model as a template as more and more cities look to reduce police involvement in mental health incidents and redirect police budgets into community resources.

. . . ‘If I had a dollar for every time I said “Call the Gerstein…,”’ said Toronto mental health lawyer Anita Szigeti, who frequently refers clients there. ‘They’re not going to be forced-hospitalized, they’re not going to be forced-treated. They’re not going to be abused. They’re going to retain some autonomy.’”

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  1. Thank you DR Reva Gerstein. And a HUGE thank you to the Doctor that collaborated with her patient to call the Gerstein center. What would most physicians do?
    I’m not sure what “experts” the center puts their population in touch with, but most likely it’s not a psychologist like Reva was.
    After all, psychiatrists are paid for by the Canadian governments, whereas psychologists or therapists charge upwards of $150 per hour. And we know that most people do not have that money and if they had $600 per month to spend on therapy, no one tells them that perhaps it might serve them well to spend that money on other community social activities where perhaps one can meet people that give support willingly.
    But that is idealism talking 🙂
    And I will take the Gerstein center over other interventions. IF it could be backed up by an interconnection of many services, which do not include psychiatry, it would be near perfect.

    Let’s all hope that Gerstein tries it utmost to remain independent of psychiatry. Hopefully they could fundraise. Above all, thanks to the staff that work there and listen.

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  2. I don’t think Ireland has any law forcing people to take medication outside of hospital; and I’ve often remarked on how in the 1980s it was very uncommon for anyone in crisis to meet police. But at that time everyone (to a certain extent) knew everyone and staff were very diplomatic.

    All my hospitalizations bar the first at Ireland, were voluntary – and I made recovery as a result of carefully reducing medication and eventually stopping.

    But I also noticed the very high dependency in Ireland (among young men) – on long term injections that eventually turn everyone who takes them into psychiatric patients.

    I’m 60 now and most of the “young male patients” I knew in the 1980s have been dead for a long time.

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