The District of Houston council is pondering the next move to what could be a coordinated way to address any number of social and health problems affecting individuals as well as risks to public and personal safety by quickly deciding what agency or service is best equipped to respond.
Council heard a presentation last month by a representative of the provincial crime reduction and gang outreach office on what are called situation tables, the result of which was to seek the support of council and ask it to apply for a grant.
Maja Langrish from the crime reduction and gang outreach office, which is part of the public safety and solicitor general ministry, told council situation tables in other communities have a key person from the police, health agencies, social service agencies, mental health services and community-based organizations meet once a week to examine specific cases.
There is confidentiality as to the privacy of an individual but agencies collaborate while assessing levels of risk applicable to that individual.
Leading up to the council presentation, an introductory workshop was held that was attended by key members representing local service providers.
Sgt. Mark Smaill of the Houston RCMP detachment, who was at the workshop, said that in many respects, a situation table would be a formal approach to what already happens informally within the community.
“We have pretty good communication already,” he said of the detachment contact, depending upon the instance or incident, with local agencies.
Smaill cited the detachment’s weekly pairing of an officer with a Northern Health Authority psychiatric nurse to visit at-risk individuals to determine their health and needs as an existing cooperative service.
“For sure, preventative measures that can be taken are much better than having to react,” he said.
“In smaller communities the RCMP is often the only agency that responds 24/7 so anything we can part of for prevention, we’re certainly in favour of,” Smaill added.
Marian Ells of Houston Link to Learning was also a participant in that introductory workshop and shared many of the same sentiments as expressed by Smaill.
“The general consensus was that this would be a really good program in Houston and be of significant benefit to community members and services,” she said.
A more formal setting would provide a safe and confidential place to key in on specific services for individuals, Ells added.
”We really liked the multi-service approach of the program. Front line service providers often will see the same person but are prevented from communicating on an individual basis with other services as confidentiality is an issue,” she said.
Houston Community Services Association executive director Angelique Batley said it fully supports the District of Houston exploring the potential for a situation table.
“This would formalize, or replace, many of the grass-roots community tables that have operated amongst service providers for a number of years,” she said.
“My hope for the table is that it would provide our community with relevant data and information to support our local organizations in meeting identified service gaps.”