Greater Sudbury to pay for coordinator to assess violent threats to community

·3 min read

The city's finance committee unanimously agreed Tuesday to provide an emergency, one-time grant to hire a Violence Threat Risk Assessment coordinator after officials discovered that funding for the position fell $40,000 short this year.

The risk assessment coordinator is responsible for providing critical information to Sudbury's Population Health Safety and Well-Being Panel about trends and other issues within the community that are negatively impacting health, safety and well-being.

“It became known to the panel in our June meeting that there was a serious funding issue because there had never been, over the last 10 years, any kind of formal permanent funding for the VTRA coordinator,” said Ward 5 Coun. Robert Kirwan, who presented the motion.

According to Kirwan, the coordinator has been a critical component of the 26-organization partnership that works together to improve violence prevention, threat management, and safety planning.

“VTRA receives about 50 referrals a year from persons of concern who are in serious crisis,” he said. “Ninety per cent (of referrals) come from the school boards. The coordinator receives these referrals and establishes a collaborative, coordinated effort with the organizations that are most suitable for that particular situation.”

He added that while the current lack of funding wouldn’t necessarily put an end to the program, it would create a “major barrier, because it’s not just going to impact the person who is at risk, but is going to impact everybody who comes in contact with them. We would definitely lose the momentum.”

The motion recommended the committee provide a one-time grant of $40,000 to buy the Panel time to find a permanent funding source, likely from the province. The city's grant will support the hiring of a VTRA coordinator for a one-year period, until June 2023.

The money will come from the city's tax rate stabilization fund.

While the motion received unanimous support, committee members warned Kirwan and Ward 11 Coun. Bill Leduc, who seconded the motion, that this funding was a one-time thing.

“This is an issue that should be supported and funded from the provincial government and specifically through the Solicitor General's office,” said Ward 8 Coun. Al Sizer. “It’s unfortunate we have to look for this additional $40,000, but I feel that if we can do it on a one-time basis only ... I fully endorse the program.”

Ward 9 Coun. Rene Lapierre voiced a similar opinion, and added that failing to provide the emergency funding now may cost the city more in the future.

“Public health is always about prevention,” he said. “This $40,000 we spend today will save us a lot of money should disaster ever happen because of a program like this. It’s cheap up front to be able to prevent lots in the future.”

He added, “We are constantly after the police chief to reduce his budget. If we don’t approve little programs like this for $40,000, the chief is gonna come back to us three, four, five, six officers at about $140,000 a piece a year to be able to deal with the crimes and all the violence that happens because we could have prevented it with a simple $40,000.”

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Twitter: @mia_rjensen

Mia Jensen, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Sudbury Star

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