Brantford Downtown Outreach Team aims to help those in need

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The City of Brantford, in partnership with Brantford Police Service, St. Leonard’s Community Services, Grand River Community Health Centre and the Downtown Brantford Business Improvement Area has implemented a program to support vulnerable persons in the city’s downtown core.  

Officially launched this week, the Brantford Downtown Outreach Team (BDOT) is made up of an outreach coordinator, nurse practitioner, concurrent disorders clinician, and peer support worker focused on outreach with people who may be experiencing addictions, mental health or housing challenges to connect them with the support services they need.

The one-year pilot project was approved by Brantford city council to address some of the emerging challenges and social disorder evident in the downtown. The BDOT was funded from the city’s portion of casino revenue, which is used to support social programs and community projects.  

“This is a very important investment,” says Brantford Mayor Kevin Davis, “Ensuring that those most vulnerable people in our community get the help they need and that the downtown remains a safe and welcoming place for everyone, including residents, students, tourists and business patrons are key priorities of council.”

Kim Baker, director of clinical services at St. Leonard’s Community Services, believes the program can make an immediate difference for people in need, saying, “Everyone has the potential to be healthy if we can find them, support them and get them connected to the help they need.”

The pilot program is scheduled to run until June 2020 and is being evaluated by Laurier’s Centre for Research on Security Practices. The project team is optimistic that the information and data collected in the first year can support applications for ongoing funding.

“A program like this needs to operate for several years before you can see the full impact,” added Davis. “I look forward to seeing the early results and to being a champion for its longevity.”  

Earlier this year Mayor Davis took on the role of chair of the Brantford-Brant Community Drugs Strategy Advocacy Committee and notes that creating a mobile outreach service was one of the key recommendations when the strategy was introduced in 2017.  

Brantford Police Chief Geoff Nelson is a strong proponent of the program.

“While there has been no increase in reported crime in the core, there has been an increase in social disorder calls to police to report people who are injured, sick or apparently suffering from substance use disorder or mental health issues,” Nelson said. “I am encouraged that we as a community are taking this step so that people who need help can speak to trained healthcare professionals who can connect them to support services sooner.”

In addition to launching the Brantford Downtown Outreach Team (BDOT), the project supports downtown businesses and organizations by providing training and marketing materials for front-line staff with the purpose of informing businesses about local resources, community crisis response services and how to interact with patrons that may be struggling with substance use disorder or mental health issues. 

“We want to be part of the solution”, says Annette Wawzonek, executive director of the Downtown Brantford Business Improvement Area. “This program is certainly welcome by the downtown business community and we want to do everything we can to support BDOT’s efforts.”

The BDOT is part of a larger plan for the downtown that includes investment in infrastructure, increased bylaw enforcement, increasing city programming and a review of the feasibility of closed circuit cameras in the downtown core. 

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