Students Gabby Lee and Joseph Ariwi from Ryerson’s Master in Spatial Analysis program were part of a team that created a smartphone app to help Toronto police officers connect people in need of community services. The Community Asset Portal app detects the location of the user and presents them with a scrollable map and information about nearby services. According to the Toronto Police Service’s Ian Williams, “The officers involved in the project have overwhelmingly appreciated this mobile app, especially since it was developed with a user-first design. They easily navigated the community asset information.” The app has already been featured in the Toronto Star and Ryerson Today.
What do you hope the app will achieve?
We hope the app will increase awareness amongst the police service and the general public about the wealth of mental health and social services available in the City of Toronto while providing bridges between social services and the populations that could benefit from them. This application will act as a reference tool for officers to quickly access appropriate social services and resources for an individual experiencing a crisis.
How might this app help people suffering from mental illness in the city?
The app will help those suffering from mental health illnesses find the appropriate care they need and information about the services offered in their neighbourhood and around the city. Whether the individual is experiencing a physical, social, or mental health problem, the app will connect individuals to a wide range of services related to health, employment support, education, finances, and housing.
What have you learned from your research that our readers might not know?
The Toronto Police Service is extremely committed to caring for the safety needs of our communities and really focuses on applying efficient methods to support the public which is evident in this project. Officers attend to many calls daily pertaining to individuals experiencing mental health crises, however we learned that Toronto 211 provides a rich and valuable database of services that are often underutilized but provide appropriate aid to those in need. This application bridges that gap by connecting individuals to appropriate services.
Who’s using the app right now?
The app is currently being tested by a few Toronto police officers. However, it will be rolled out to all Toronto officers soon, and eventually to the general public.