City announces plans for an Office of Community Health and Safety
June 23, 2020
The Office of Mayor William Peduto, Office of Equity and Department of Public Safety have announced their blueprint for a new Office of Community Health and Safety. The office will redirect city resources to better meet community needs by housing social services, public health and social work experts who can assist first responders in situations that require longer-term assistance, harm reduction support and other services.
"Our public safety personnel are available 24/7 but often go into situations that are beyond the scope of their training. The individuals and communities they encounter need help beyond law enforcement or emergency medical attention," Mayor William Peduto said. "This office will allow public safety to step back and determine what kind of support an individual or family needs and get them that help through social workers or other agencies so that we're seeing people holistically and connecting them with more sustainable resources and assistance."
The proposed office will operate under the co-direction of the Department of Public Safety and Office of the Mayor. The goals and directives of the office are to:
1. Develop community health and safety priorities and areas of focus based on community input and areas of need most frequently encountered by public safety personnel.
2. Establish a group of community health and safety advisors made up of public health leaders to advise, educate, support and inform on best practices for sustainable social and health support in city programs, policies and legislation.
3. Conduct regular trainings with all public safety personnel designed in collaboration between staff, experts and communities to ensure first responders are prepared to appropriately engage with complex situations that may require additional harm reduction support.
4. Collaborate with higher education programs throughout the city to provide training opportunities for social work students to help respond to community needs.
The preliminary areas of focus for community support include:
• Environmental Health
• Mental Health
• Problematic Substance Use and Overdose Prevention
• Training and Education
• Criminal Justice Reform & Re-entry
• Youth Engagement
• Community Paramedicine and Decreasing Public Safety Overutilization
• Trans-health and Wellbeing
• Jurisdictional Inequity
• Harm Reduction
• Maternal-Child Health
• Suicide Prevention
• Supports for Those Who Are Differently Abled
These areas of focus are dynamic and subject to change based on input from the community and situations most commonly encountered by public safety personnel.
"This initiative will give the community relations units in all bureaus as well as all police officers, firefighters and emergency medical personnel the support that is critical to improving not just our high standards of service, but also our relationships with the community," said Public Safety Director Wendell Hissrich.
The Mayor's Office and Department of Public Safety will work with City Council to determine reallocations in the 2021 budget and identify additional external funding opportunities for this initiative.