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Community Safety and Well-Being plan seeks approval

UPDATE: Motion passed unanimously.

County council will be asked to approve a Community Safety and Well-Being plan to be presented at Shire Hall Tuesday night.

The plan, developed over the past three years, seeks to anchor municipal safety and well-being policies, initiatives and activities to stimulate higher levels of civic engagement in a more positive and cohesive community.

In early 2015, the Police Services Board initiated a broad discussion about the plan, aware that the provincial government intended to include a requirement for all municipalities to have one in place as part of a revised Police Services Act.

“Both the board and the OPP believed a focus on crime prevention and community safety and well-being made very good sense, given that the majority of police calls in the County, as in most municipalities, are in response to social disorder situations (e.g. family/neighbour disputes, mental health issues) rather than criminal activity,” said Margaret Werkhoven, chair of the PEC Police Services Board, states in her message included with the plan.

Advisory Team Chair, Susan Quaiff, and project manager Ann McIntosh, are to be presenting the plan overview on behalf of the County’s Community Safety and Well-Being Committee.

Quaiff, for the past 28 years has been working with families in childcare and early education.

“The impact of early identification, referral to services warm hand-off and connections close to home is critical,” she said. “When people have knowledge and connection when in need, they fell a sense of belonging and this contributes to overall well-being. Connecting to services early has a long-term, positive outcome in communities.”

Following interviews with key representatives from 25 community agencies several important themes were identified within the broad range of issues – including housing, poverty, transportation, mental health and addictions. Children and youth, seniors and low-income earners were determined to be priority population groups.

In more than a dozen “community conversation” sessions held last fall, input from 170 participants named housing, health, employment and work as the top three issues.

The inaugural plan identifies four local priorities – community vitality, education, healthy populations and living standards. The team recognizes they are not the sole issues facing the community, but were selected as being realistic and attainable for the first action plan.

An Emergency Response Strategy – to assist emergency responders to reach their destination in a quick, safe manner – includes developing a ‘Move Over’ awareness campaign for motorists and a ‘Flashing Green Lights means move over too!’ campaign.

Strategies to help reduce incidents of seniors becoming targets of fraud include developing collaborative ways to reduce or remove risks as well as encouraging dialogue to dispel related stigma and embarrassment while encouraging reporting of incidents by victims.

Strategies for seniors also include supporting safe mobility, independence, social connections and help to maintain and upgrade driving skills.

Poverty reduction strategies focus on increasing awareness and access to government funds, credits and services that support increased personal and family income – including clinics with a focus on financial empowerment and consumer protection and peer mentor networks to help navigate these systems.

Collaborative Mental Health and Addictions strategies focus on improving outcomes and experiences while reducing police involvement in mental health non-criminal, or prolific persons calls.

If approved, council the advisory team will be dissolved and council will be asked to find an organization to implement and monitor the plan.

It is noted that in many respects, the plan formalizes collaboration already existing in the community, and also acknowledges collaborations under way.

“As always, the challenge remains to maintain the momentum and to ensure that these words become actions,” the plan states. “It will require effort and commitment with an unwavering focus on the long-term goals.”

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