January 15, 2016 - On January 14th, Mayor John Tory and his staff visited CAMH’s Queen Street site to tour the campus and have a roundtable discussion with CAMH and community leaders about affordable housing and police response to people in crisis.
Mayor John Tory, Councillor James Pasternak, Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam and CAMH President and CEO Dr. Catherine Zahn tour CAMH and have a friendly conversation with Dakoda from CAMH’s Out of This World café
Following a tour of the CAMH grounds and an impromptu game of ping-pong in the hospital’s community centre, Mayor Tory met with Dr. Catherine Zahn, President and CEO of CAMH, and several other CAMH and community leaders who advocate on behalf of those living with mental illness. They spent time discussing the current state of mental health care and needs surrounding housing, peer support and police response to people in crisis.
Those present included:
- Dr. Alexander Simpson, Chief of Forensic Psychiatry at CAMH
- Jennifer Chambers, Empowerment Council, CAMH
- Pat Capponi, Voices from the Street and Chair of the TPSB Mental Health Sub-Committee
- Steve Lurie, Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), Toronto Branch
- Councillor James Pasternak
- Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam
- Councillor Mike Layton
- Inspector Chris Boddy, Toronto Police Service
- Dr. Vicky Stergiopoulos, Chief Psychiatrist at St. Michael’s Hospital
- Susan Fitzpatrick, CEO of Toronto Central LHIN
- Scott McKeen, City of Toronto SDFA
From Mayor Tory’s Twitter account: the roundtable discussion in action
“There’s a lot being done and the dialogue surrounding mental illness is much more open than it was 10 years ago,” said Mayor Tory. “I have to give credit to institutions like CAMH, which is a world leader; individuals who come forward and share their personal stories; and to corporations like Bell Canada that play a role in raising awareness.” This dialogue, he said, is an achievement that has resulted in the creation of many strategies for dealing with mental illness and homelessness, but it’s time to take the necessary steps towards implementation.
Mayor Tory addresses the media
“We have to state as a goal that there are zero instances where people [with mental illnesses] meet a tragic end when encountered by law enforcement,” said Mayor Tory. “And I intend to be a part of the solution.”
Affordable housing, the importance of training, and peer support
The mayor was straight-forward when he said, “The single number one issue we need to address is housing. We sometimes assume that people are living on the streets because of a mental illness. Often, however, the state of their mental health deteriorates while they are living on the street.”
When asked about training programs for police, hospitals and other institutions that encounter mental illness, Mayor Tory emphasized the importance of developing programs that can be turned into tangible action. “You have to make sure that cultures [within these organizations] accept and absorb training programs,” he said. “This is a message we have to take to heart.”
Another big piece of the solution is enlisting the aid of people with lived experience as peer support workers, Tory added. He referenced having peer support workers being part of mobile crisis units, and even floated the prospect of a person with lived experience on the Toronto Police Services Board. “People with lived experience and mental illness aren’t one-dimensional,” he explained. “The sooner we recognize this, the better off we’ll be.”
Mayor Tory expressed satisfaction with his visit to CAMH and said he looks forward to follow-up meetings in the weeks to come. “CAMH is respected on a global scale and I’m happy to be here to show my support for its tremendous progress.”