Bruce County’s Community Safety and Well-Being Plan about ‘leveraging resources’

BRUCE COUNTY – Sarah Pelton, co-ordinator, presented an update to Bruce County council on the Community Safety and Well-Being Plan.

Pelton was accompanied by Insp. Krista Miller, detachment commander of South Bruce OPP.

The presentation is an annual one, to keep council informed about the provincial initiative that’s aimed at reducing crime by dealing with the factors that lead to crime.

In 2019, municipalities were required to develop and adopt a Community Safety and Well-Being Plan in partnership with police services and boards, and various organizations including health and mental health, education, community and social services agencies and child and youth services.

Pelton told council it is a matter of “addressing risks before crises occur.” The graphic she used to illustrate the point was a bull’s eye, with incident response in the centre, surrounded by rings – risk intervention, prevention and social development.

“We deal with the outer rings,” she said.

She likened it to people falling in a river. The immediate response to the crisis is to pull them out, but it doesn’t address the factors that make them fall in.

In reviewing the governance framework of the initiative, she noted it was a collaborative effort, working with existing groups. The process continues to identify ways in which community safety and well-being is prioritized through policies and programs that focus on social development and prevention, determine resources needed to sustain and improve programs, and share best practices throughout Bruce-Grey.

Objectives for 2023 involve establishing crime prevention and mental health action tables (action tables provide content matter expertise for identified areas of risk, create/implement action plans, and then evaluate outcomes and impacts), establish reporting frameworks for action tables, and enhancing community asset mapping. The focus will be on public information sharing and community engagement, as well as continuing to establish best practices for referrals and collaboration with other response tables, and exploring opportunities for long-term funding in Bruce and Grey.

The question-and-answer period included input from Miller, and Christine MacDonald, director of human services.

County Coun. Luke Charbonneau (Saugeen Shores) asked a key question.

“How do we know it’s working?”

He expressed interest in how the county can know “our investment is making a difference.” He asked for actual metrics, not anecdotal information.

Pelton said that last year, there were 27 situations where there were interventions before they became crises. However, Charbonneau said those were still anecdotal.

MacDonald spoke of “leveraging resources in a different way,” and noted that initially, people “had a far different view of risk factors … now they have a much better idea.”

County Coun. Kenneth Craig (Kincardine) asked about the “gaps in service” to which Pelton had referred in her presentation.

Again, there was no simple answer. Pelton said the people “have very complex needs… for multiple services, with lack of co-ordination among all the supports.”

MacDonald added, “There is never just one problem… the challenges are unique.”

County Coun. Steve Hammell (Arran-Elderslie) asked about school boards.

Pelton noted, “We’re not in the schools doing presentations,” and said they worked with the various groups that were in the schools, such as Keystone.

Warden Chris Peabody (Brockton) asked about mental health and addiction funding.

MacDonald answered that it was a matter of “how to leverage what we have… make what we have go further.”

The warden further asked what “mayors who are on our main street every day” can do to assist someone in crises.

“How do I implement this plan?” he asked.

Pelton said calling 211 would provide information on services available.

Miller took it one step further, describing the two models of mobile crisis intervention in her detachment. One is a partnership with CMHC clinicians, while the other, in place only since November, allows South Bruce detachment to utilize three mental health clinicians through a partnership involving Grey-Bruce detachment.

“It’s about the right resources at the right time,” she said.

The goal is “alleviating” visits to the ER, she said, advising that people can call 911 or their local police when someone is in crisis.

Pauline Kerr, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Walkerton Herald Times