City Council has authorized funding that will allow the Diversion Outreach Team (DOT) to continue providing front-line intervention for Lethbridge's most vulnerable residents for the next two years.
Council members approved a request from the Joint Action Team – a broad-based ad hoc community group confronting social issues in Lethbridge – to allocate $142,000 annually from corporate contingencies in 2017 and 2018 for the DOT to continue operating at its current level. In the past year, the DOT has been involved in more than 6,000 interventions, more than half of those in the downtown area.
"The Diversion Outreach Team is providing an important and essential service to the most at-risk members of our community," says Mayor Chris Spearman. "We see the measurable value they are providing to our community, and it's important that they continue to do this work. This
is an important initiative for Council as we work to address social issues in
The DOT is managed by the Canadian Mental Health Association through a fee-for-service contract. A year ago, Council provided funding to the end of 2016 that enhanced the capacity of the DOT to respond to a rise in panhandling, public intoxication and aggressive behaviour. In a presentation to Council today, the Joint Action Team reported that this enhancement has resulted in fewer calls to the Lethbridge Police Service and Lethbridge Fire/EMS regarding such behaviour. Downtown businesses have also seen positive results, the team reported.
The Joint Action Team's action plan includes supporting the downtown area as a vibrant and inviting place; treating our vulnerable population with respect, dignity and compassion; and fostering collaborative relationships with residents, businesses and neighbours.
Tara Grindle, Communications Consultant
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