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Mom worries her mentally ill son will fall victim to police shooting

Giselle Russell has already planned her son’s funeral and picked out his final resting place.

He’s only 21 years old.

He doesn’t suffer from a terminal illness like cancer. Instead, he’s mentally ill and the worried mom fears that he will become a victim of a police shooting during a psychotic episode.

She says the system has failed her son, who is bi-polar, and that the recent report that made 84 recommendations Toronto police should implement to prevent deaths during encounters with people in crisis, isn’t enough.

Among those recommendations was an expansion of the Toronto Mobile Crisis Intervention Team (MCIT) — who Russell says were woefully unprepared when dealing with her son in the past.

CityNews reporter Shauna Hunt has more on her struggle to find help, and her fears that her son will meet a tragic fate.

Backgrounder on Toronto Mobile Crisis Intervention Team:

The MCIT program, launched in Toronto in 2000 in partnership with St. Michael’s Hospital, pairs a mental health nurse with a police officer from 51 Division to attend calls involving people with mental health issues.

Under current police practices, the MCIT is treated as a second response team, but under former Supreme Court of Canada justice Frank Iacobucci’s recommendations, some teams would become first on scene.

The report also recommends the MCIT program be expanded to every police division and have 24-hour availability, rather than the 10-hour days they currently work.

Here are some factoids about the program:

• MCIT was first established in Toronto in 2000 resulting from a coroner’s inquest into Lester Donaldson’s death;
• MCIT began with a partnership with St. Michael’s Hospital and police officers in 51 Division and was then expanded to 52 Division;
• By the end of 2014, the MCIT program will provide a “degree of coverage” to all 17 divisions, involving six hospitals: St. Josephs’s Health Centre, Scarborough Hospital, Humber River Regional Hospital, Toronto East General Hospital and North York General Hospital;
• The MCIT program is based on the Memphis Model developed in 1988 in Memphis, Tenn., which involves special trained police officers serving as first responders to calls involving people in crisis;
• MCIT funding comes from Toronto police for the officers and from the Local Health Integration Network for the nurses;
• MCIT goals include: providing assessment and support to people in crisis; averting escalation of a situation and potential injury to both police and people in crisis and determining course of action;
Advantages of MCIT:
• Pairing of officer and nurse bridges gap between the police and the mental health systems allowing pair to access both police and health records to inform their response to the call.
• Nurses possess medical knowledge that cannot be matched by police officers.
• Specialized training to MCIT officers reduces stigma associated with mental illnesses within the service.
Shortcomings of MCIT program:
• TPS doesn’t come close to meeting its goal of providing specialized response to all calls from people in crisis.
• Hours of services restricted to 10 hours a day

Click here to for the full Iacobucci report.