I know how much Centretown has been struggling with the impact of the overdose, mental health and homelessness crises. I receive dozens of emails a week from residents who don’t know what to do when confronted with open drug use, erratic behaviour, or displays of psychological distress by people on our streets or in local businesses and community spaces.
For that reason, I advocated strongly for the creation of a non-police crisis response, and I am delighted to let you know that Centretown has been selected by the Guiding Council on Mental Health and Addictions as the location for a pilot project that will launch in 2024.
When this project is launched, Centretown residents and visitors will finally have a place to call when we witness a neighbour in distress. 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.
This project is the result of a community-driven approach led by the Guiding Council for Mental Health and Addictions whose work was grounded in research evidence, leading practices, and Ottawa residents’ in-depth perspectives developed through years of lived experience.
The Ward 14 recently produced a Who To Call List, featuring the community agencies that are currently available to help manage crises in the downtown core. But as you can see, the list is long, the hours where services are available are limited and not every service is available in all of Centretown. When the pilot project launches, there will be one number to call to access services 24/7. I know this will be a huge relief to those of us who live and work in Centretown.
I also understand that the current situation is urgent and that residents can’t wait months for assistance when it comes to the overdose and mental health crises. That is why when I met with Mayor Sutcliffe this month to discuss Budget 2024, I advocated for bridge funding to allow community agencies to scale-up to meet the very real needs in Centretown between now and when the alternative response pilot is set to launch in the spring or summer. I will keep you posted as those discussions progress.
I want to emphasize that a huge reason why Centretown was selected for this pilot was because of the strong advocacy by community members like you. In the coming months, we will be engaging with the Centretown residents and business owners to explain how this new service will work and answer any questions that might come up.
As always, feel free to contact my office if there is anything we can assist you with.