Press Release – Peace of Mind

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For Immediate Release

Ari Goldkind releases “Peace of Mind” mental health platform

TORONTO – SEPTEMBER 19, 2014 – Criminal lawyer Ari Goldkind has seen what happens when Toronto’s mental health system fails its residents. The shooting of Sammy Yatim, he says, serves as a wake-up call to the realities he sees every day, in which far too many people, especially young people with great potential, are forced down the rabbit hole of police confrontation and incarceration.

As a private citizen, he is particularly passionate about mental health and policing issues, and counts many experts in both fields as friends and associates. And as a mayoral candidate, he has a platform to improve the city’s mental health support systems, and reduce the ever growing criminalization of mental illness. That platform is called “Peace of Mind.”

“Dozens of times each and every day, the police are the first point of contact for residents with mental health issues who are at risk,” he says, “and this is unfair to both sides. There are too many instances where people who suffer from mental health disorders or issues are unnecessarily thrown into the corrections system, and the possibility of long-term solutions to get them healthy either become remote or lost entirely. At the same time, the police have been unfairly tasked to be social workers and medical providers, which is not their job, and is not something they have been trained for.”

Goldkind’s Peace of Mind plan seeks to dramatically reduce the instances of mental health-related public safety incidents, and significantly increase the ability of Torontonians with mental health or mood-disorder challenges to lead productive lives, by warranting a full council committee, and opening up dialogue with the provincial agencies that run Ontario’s hospitals.

The Goldkind Peace of Mind platform consists of:

  • Creation of a Non-Police Mobile Mental Health Unit (MMHU), comprised of 50-60 on-call psychologists, psychiatrists/GPs, student-residents and other qualified people from related fields. This would require an investment of $15-20 million.
  • Introduction of a circumstantial mandate that allows MMHU members to enter private residences, workplaces, schools and public spaces as first responders in mental health crises.
  • Creation of a Mental Health City Council committee, which would work closely with Public Health, to provide municipal policy leadership, at no cost to the city.
  • An audit of city mental health services, with a focus on narrowing the gap between the downtown core where services are compact and readily available and the suburbs where access is widely-dispersed and represents a systemic barrier to those in need.
  • Widening the network of city-run community health centres that offer mental health-related services (Cost: $6-8 million).
  • Expanding the number of front-line police trained with non-violent, mental health-focused intervention, to respond to emergency calls (no cost to the city).
  • Investing $5-8 million to create a city-wide mental health task force and agency represented by Toronto Public Health, CAMH, the Toronto District School Board, Toronto Community Housing, and various community groups — focused on reaching at-risk people, including youth, and connecting them to services, further reducing the incidence of mental health emergency interventions.
  • An official city campaign, at a cost of $2-4 million, aimed at reducing the stigma around mental health disorders and encouraging citizens across the socioeconomic spectrum to speak out, seek help, and seek support; this would bolster existing efforts by organizations such as CAMH with real political capital.

Goldkind highlights his recent conversations with sports TV personality Michael Landsberg, who has been very open about his mental health struggles, and with Dr. Brett Belchetz, medical correspondent for Sun News and an emergency room physician, who has seen the issues first hand.  “These conversations emphasized how broken our city’s mental health crisis response truly is,” he says. “I believe that the time for talk and for expensive reports is over. Improving Toronto’s mental health support systems and addressing the issue of unnecessary use-of-force and criminal justice system interventions has to start right at the top in the mayor’s office, and that I’m uniquely qualified among current candidates to fill that role.”

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