Callander, Powassan, Chisholm, and the Township of Nipissing have unveiled their community safety and well-being (CSWB) plan.
The province requires all Ontario municipalities to develop and adopt a CSWB plan, and these four worked together to develop a regional objective.
In the fall of 2019, Powassan and Callander began working with Nipissing Township as all three have similar demographics and share services within the District of Parry Sound.
They struck a committee to begin work, and in early 2020, Chisholm joined the team.
“This plan supports enhanced collaboration among our communities and various sectors within our communities,” explained Chisholm’s mayor, Gail Degagne.
Tom Piper, Mayor of the Township of Nipissing, mentioned how “working together allows us to provide the most comprehensive and cost-effective support to our residents.”
The CSWB plan was put together using input from the communities, the police services boards, and local health service providers. Opinions were sought from those working in education, community and social services, and youth services.
One of the top priorities identified within the plan is improving mental health services. Psychiatric and psychological services are not readily available locally within the region, which is partly due to difficulties recruiting and retaining qualified professionals.
There is a wait list of two to three weeks for mental health counselling services, and the plan also noted a shortage of homecare and personal support workers.
A long-term goal of the plan is to provide all residents within the region access to a family physician which would decrease emergency room visits for routine health matters.
Of the 88 people who participated in the survey distributed by the CSWB committee, mental health was the third most popular answer when asked to list the most important safety and well-being priorities.
Even more popular was having access to mental health services, and crime prevention ranked number one.
“Community safety is one of the concerns most frequently expressed by Ontarians,” the plan clarifies, “and a factor that became clear through our community survey. Although statistics point to overall falling crime rates, Ontario’s citizens want assurances that they are safe in their own communities.”
Strengthening a sense of community safety is a high priority for the municipalities, and they aim to create an integrated approach to crime prevention.
These approaches will be developed by “various levels of government, police, community agencies, individual community members, business, educators, and health care professionals.”
With the plan complete, the committee plans to meet annually to review the progress the municipalities are making to reach their goals.
An annual report will also be provided to each council for their consideration.
“We are hopeful that by identifying the challenges, and implementing social development approaches, we will be successful in achieving greater community safety and well-being,” explained Callander’s mayor Robb Noon.