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  • Writer's pictureESSEX FREE PRESS

Essex Council presented with finalized Community Safety and Well-Being Plan

by Sylene Argent

Essex Council authorized Essex County Council to approve the Windsor Essex Regional Community Safety and Well-Being Plan, and any subsequent reports on behalf of the Town of Essex, after hearing an updated report on the matter during a special meeting on the evening of Monday, October 18.

  Council hosted a special meeting with John Matheson of StrategyCorp regarding the ongoing development of the Windsor-Essex Regional Community Safety and Well-Being Plan on the evening of July 5, while it was still being created.

  The October 18 meeting offered an update as the finalized plan was presented, which was developed as a regional approach between municipalities in Essex County and the City of Windsor.

  As of January 1, 2019, the Safer Ontario Act, 2018 requires municipalities to prepare and adopt community safety and well-being plans in partnership with a multi-sectoral advisory committee. The local plan must be submitted and endorsed by City and County Councils by December 31, 2021.

   The whole logic behind the Windsor-Essex Regional Community Safety and Well-Being Plan is not waiting until the end of an incident to respond. The point is to either intervene before the incident or prevent the risks to keep issues from happening.

  The development of the local plan brought together all sorts of different community groups – ranging from the police to those in housing, mental health, addictions, and education – to try and take a holistic approach to the identification of risks.

  Throughout the project, many consultations have taken place. Locally, the Plan is being guided by the Regional Community Safety and Well-Being Systems Leadership Table and the Enhanced Sector Network.

  The Regional Plan includes recommendations as well as appendices for each municipality.

   Matheson explained public consultations for the plan included virtual public meetings, including one that was held with Essex residents in March, in each regional municipality. In addition, a survey on the matter was issued, of which 840 surveys were submitted from across the Region; 50 of those were from Essex residents. Through public consultations, local priorities were identified.

  Some of the needs provided from Essex residents through the project included affordable and/or attainable housing, access to affordable leisure activities for children, resident and community safety, in addition to the need for mental health and substance abuse services, employment skills development, and specialized education programs. Additional comments from Essex-based respondents included the need for more accessible transportation options, within and between municipalities, and the importance of avoiding school closures.

  “Of all the things that are coming out of the Community Safety and Wellbeing Plans, the strength of the document [is] a tool to fight silos in existing, and among existing, service providers…structurally, the different silos we have are not set up to optimize the sharing of information among them. And that has caused difficulties in the way in which we deliver services to the public,” Matheson said. “This ability to reduce barriers and ensure there is ongoing, constant governance is a real strength of this new approach.”

  The plan, he said, has a declaration of priorities, then a commitment to deal with them in a way that is different, he added.

  The four priority categories include good governance and data, engaged and safe communities, mental health and substance-use supports, and financial security and economic equity.

  Since he last updated Council, Matheson said a variety of engagement took place from a host of partners to work on the four priority categories. Some of the goals listed in those priority categories included improving collaboration between various partners to gather better data and service outcomes.

  Mayor Larry Snively spoke of the need to expand mental health services, and was happy to see that outlined in the plan.

  Deputy Mayor Richard Meloche asked about prevention programs. Matheson said the idea of the process is to do the best with what is available, not create duplicates. If the one-two punch for mental health and substance abuse is to increase frequency of preventative care and get better at the emergency response, it is meant to be looked at as both of those responses are important.

  The stigma still has to be continued to be broken down, he added, so those who need it will seek out the help.

  Next step, the Plan will be presented to City and County Councils in November for consideration. From there, the Plan will be submitted to the Ministry of the Solicitor General.

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