An elderly man stands outside on a blustery April morning, shaking and alone on an empty residential street. Wearing only a light windbreaker and jogging pants, he doesn’t know who he is or how he got there.
“Do you know your name, sir?” asks Sharon Lawlor, a mental health nurse with the Toronto Police Mobile Crisis Intervention Team, as she gently wraps him in a blanket.
During a ride-along with Torstar News Service, Lawlor and her partner, Const. Peter Sidlauskas, soothe people gripped by paranoia and dementia. What they don’t do is talk down people with knives, or thwart suicide attempts.
Mobile Crisis Intervention Teams, consisting of a mental health nurse and a police officer, are one way the Toronto Police is trying to stem the tide of rising mental health-related calls. But the teams are secondary responders, do not operate after 11 p.m. and generally do not engage with people holding weapons — unlike in other cities such as Hamilton.
Where I live is basically in between Toronto and Hamilton. COAST are the people that came and escorted my son to the hospital during his last admission.