Recognizing that many calls for service to the Police Service are very complex and have the potential to involve many local agencies, Peterborough has joined the over 30 communities in Canada with a proactive approach to calls for service known as Situation Tables. Each week, members of local service providers including members from health, social services, mental health, addictions, youth services, probation, police and First Nations gather to discuss situations of acute risk and plan interventions with supports and assistance for individuals in difficult circumstances. Agencies bring cases forward when they feel they have exhausted their ability to help an individual or family, and substantial risk to the persons involved remains with the likelihood that the risk will become more severe if nothing is done. Each situation is reviewed, and where appropriate, a coordinated, multi-agency response is mobilized.
The Peterborough Situation Table is part of an emerging trend to drive collaboration between support agencies to address the many risk factors that can escalate making it impossible for any single agency to manage without the support of other expertise. With all service providers at the table, the program can quickly connect individuals and families in the region with the services and supports they need to address the challenges they face.
“The Situation Table was developed to address the rising costs of reactive policing and acknowledge that about 80 per cent of police calls really require a coordinated health and social services response,” according to Peter Williams, Co-Chair of the Steering Committee for the Peterborough Situation Table and Community Development and Engagement Coordinator with the Peterborough Police Service.
Carole-Ann McCulloch, Clinical Case Manager with Kinark Child and Family Services in Peterborough who Chairs the Peterborough Situation Table, agrees, saying “This is an opportunity to anticipate that critical moment when a coordinated effort to provide urgently needed services can prevent significant harm to a person, family or community.”
Co-Chair of the Steering Committee for the Peterborough Situation Table and Peterborough Public Health Nurse Claire Hanlon explains that “Advocates of this model are driven by the notion that ‘human service disconnect’ makes it difficult for some individuals and families to access the supports and services they need. Across the country, this model has mobilized various community resources to work together, wrapping supports and services around an individual or family in a situation of acutely-elevated risk. They have not only assisted individuals and families mitigating situations of elevated risk, but have also greatly improved community partners’ collaboration, awareness, and relationships.”
Many of the situations brought to the tables involve a mental health issue. While the stigma surrounding mental health is shrinking, for many suffering from mental health problems living on the fringes, the challenges of their condition often result in interaction with the local police. Peterborough Police has now established a crisis support response with the local mental health organization, ensuring that a Mental Health Worker is always available to provide an assessment of an individual in crisis, including crisis support and intervention if required. Often people in crisis call the police out of desperation as they don’t know who else to contact. This collaboration provides a more effective and immediate options for support.
Before sitting at the table, members receive some serious training, to ensure everyone understands the rules, including those regarding privacy.
In its six months of operation, the Peterborough Situation Table has reviewed 17 cases involving a total of 32 people brought forward, and has added Peterborough Youth Services and the Peterborough Family Health Team to its group of partners.
Communities where these programs operate have observed a reduction in the frequency and intensity of emergency calls for service. This is good news not only for the service recipients and the community at large, but also for service providers facing budgetary pressures. As the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. For more information regarding this program, contact Peter Williams, Co-Chair of the Steering Committee for the Peterborough Situation Table, Peterborough Police Service at 705-876-1122 x 290 of via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.