THUNDER BAY - People who are at a high-risk of harm, victimization, or criminalization are sometimes not able to find or receive the proper services they need to prevent a crisis. While there are many organizations that seek to help those who are most vulnerable, for the first time, they will be working collaboratively to help those most in need.
The Thunder Bay Situation Table, an initiative of the Human Services and Justice Coordinator Committee, was officially launched on Tuesday and is meant to help people with elevated risk factors that could lead to a crisis situation.
The Situation Table brings together 30 organizations from various sectors including mental health, addictions, justice, social services, employment, and education.
Mariah Maddock, chair of the Thunder Bay Situation Table, said there are similar cross-sectoral situation tables in other parts of the region, and the 30 organizations in the city recognize the need to work collaboratively to help some of the city’s most vulnerable people.
“When people have very complex needs, they are crossing multiple sectors and we want to make sure people are getting access to the right care at the right time,” Maddock said. “What the situation table provides is an opportunity for service providers to collaborate so we really can have that seamless delivery of services.”
Organizations and agencies can refer people facing complex situations to the Situation Table after all other existing resources have been exhausted.
Thunder Bay Police Service acting deputy chief, Don Lewis, used the example of an individual who may be in a situation that requires repeated police intervention.
“Often times there is a time gap from when police are intervening to when they may find themselves getting some assistance that they need,” he said. “The time gap is too long and they find themselves getting involved again with the police and sometimes things cannot go very well.”
In such cases, the police may refer the individual’s case to the Situation Table, which will then meet to discuss the needs of the individual on an anonymous basis to determine what services should intervene.
“If we can recognize those factors exist before that huge crisis occurs, we can avert the crisis, therefore it’s going to reduce the police response,” said Thunder Bay Police Staff Sgt., Derek West. “Long term there is a benefit to the community in reducing those crisis incidents and getting people help. It’s the right service at the right time.”
Jeff Upton, education officer with Lakehead Public Schools, said from a student perspective, there are a number of risk factors, including homelessness, poverty, food provision, mental health, and violence that can sometimes require further assistance from other services.
“Sometimes within our own internal processes and resources we have and working with our partners, we come to a place where we don’t know what else to do,” he said. “So by being able to bring a matter to the situation table when we identify a student or a family that has those elevated risk factors, we can bring it to a table of community partners and look for a solution.”
The Thunder Bay Situation Table has already helped 15 people and planned six interventions. Maddock said the response from the community has been very positive so far and outreach will continue with the hopes of growing organization membership in the next few months.