Proactive Intervention: At the Connectivity Table, Health and Social Services Agencies Pool Their Expertise to Provide Immediate and Innovative Response to Acute High-Risk Situations

By Barton, Teghan | Alternatives Journal, Fall 2016 | Go to article overview

Proactive Intervention: At the Connectivity Table, Health and Social Services Agencies Pool Their Expertise to Provide Immediate and Innovative Response to Acute High-Risk Situations


Barton, Teghan, Alternatives Journal


THE PEOPLE who gather around the Connectivity Table each week represent various health and social service agencies. Some are executives; some are front-line workers. But when they come together, it's to collaborate and pool expertise. And to take action.

The situations brought to the Table involve individuals and families facing elevated risk--in immediate need of support.

Connectivity Waterloo Region, which has initiatives in Kitchener and Cambridge, Ont., tailors its solutions to the person or family in front of them. Every situation is unique and requires a unique mixture of social services.

The risk factors being weighed by Connectivity partners are complex and numerous--26 categories have been identified. Often they are related to mental health, criminal involvement or substance abuse. Housing, suicide risks and physical health are also major players.

The Kitchener group has noted a striking number of situations involving young adults (under age 24), teens and children. Issues such as mental health, addiction, poverty, precarious housing and the negative effects of peers all can place young people in a situation of elevated risk.

Kelly Niall, a physician's assistant working with K-W 4 Health Links, who has been a member of Connectivity for almost two years, says it is fascinating to see how the group's different perspectives focus on the various problems. "It feels like meaningful work," she notes.

Niall's employer, K-W 4 Health Links, works with people who have "medically complex" situations. Other partners at the Connectivity Table draw from various aspects of community services, from police to hospital services and from education to housing support. The Kitchener-based Table has about 30 partners and Cambridge about 25.

The model for Connectivity comes from Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, where the Community Mobilization Hub has been taking a multidisciplinary approach to problem-solving since 2009. Prince Albert credits the initiative for a decline in violent crimes as well as decreases in child-protection caseloads, emergency room visits, mental health interventions and a variety of other social concerns.

After seeing the ingenuity and successes of the Saskatchewan program, the idea was brought to Waterloo Region through the Waterloo Wellington Local Health Integration Network, Waterloo Regional Police Service and the Waterloo Region Crime Prevention Council. Together they created a Connectivity Table for Cambridge and North Dumfries in January 2014.

Later that year, a Kitchener Table was launched by Carizon Family and Community Services in partnership with the police. This initiative serves the cities of Kitchener and Waterloo plus Wilmot, Woolwich and Wellesley townships. It recently received a Smart & Caring Community Grant from the Kitchener and Waterloo Community Foundation.

Connectivity Waterloo Region has garnered international honours. In September 2015, it was a recipient of the lACP/Motorola Webber Seavey Award, given by the International Association of Chiefs of Police. The award honoured the Waterloo Regional Police Services' collaboration with the community partners. It was presented at the IAPC conference in Chicago followed by a Kitchener celebration.

How Connectivity works

Any one of the member agencies can bring a situation to the Table, someone they've come across during their front line work who is experiencing "acutely elevated risk." The police bring about half of the cases to the Table.

Confidentiality is one of the highest principles of Connectivity. Situations are first presented without key identifying factors.

The Table partners then vote on whether the situation meets their threshold of "acutely elevated risk" to warrant immediate intervention. To fully understand this threshold, it is key to remember that many of the people accessing social services already live a life with varying levels of risk, some even quite severe, but for their case to come to Connectivity, something had to have happened that has elevated that risk. …

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