Healthy and Safe Communities Department (HSC) General Manager, Paul Johnson, presented the department’s tax operating budget for 2021. The presentation included a summary of the department’s 2020 accomplishments including the COVID-19 response, building of new affordable housing units, climate positive work, continuous quality improvement initiatives, and a look ahead at major areas of focus in 2021.
Councillors heaped praise on Johnson for the way the department quickly mobilized in response to COVID. Johnson told council that the response was successful because of the department staff’s willingness to work in unaccustomed roles to make the response successful.
Budget Increase of $3.7 per cent
The Healthy and Safe Communities Department preliminary 2021 operating budget request showed an increase of 3.7 per cent or $9.3 million. However, Council will consider a potential further reduction depending on how much one-time funding from the Province of Ontario will be available. towards childcare and early learning. Both Johnson and city finance chief Mike Zegarac noted that the uncertainty over how much longer the province will supply emergency funding, makes accurate financial forecasting difficult.
Better integration of health care network
One positive outcome of the pandemic has been the increased and strengthened partnerships with other health care and community partners across sectors such as hospitals, long-term care and congregate settings, and schools to respond to new COVID-19 infection and prevention protocols, case management, and management of 154 COVID-19 outbreaks.
The department supported 4,153 vulnerable and/or self-isolating residents with delivery of food, personal protective equipment, arranging for transportation to COVID-19 testing or home from hospital, income and housing through a newly established Vulnerable Supports Team made up of redeployed staff. They ensured shelter operators could enact important COVID-19 protocols, to reduce the risk of transmission for shelter clients and staff, including physical distancing measures, expanding the system using unconventional spaces, implementing isolation shelter space, and use of personal protective equipment, and rapid testing and surveillance.
Housing was found for 700 households who were on Hamilton’s Access to Housing wait list, allowing them to move into into rent-geared to income units, in the private market using portable housing benefits, and from intensive case management and Rapid Rehousing programs.
Other department accomplishments in 2020 included:
• Expanded role of mobile integrated health community paramedicine services supporting vulnerable residents with flu shots, wellness calls, supporting Public Health Services and hospital partners with mobile COVID-19 vaccine clinics, testing in congregate settings and outbreaks, and remote patient monitoring.
• Provided free emergency child care for ~200 children of essential frontline workers per month from March to June in partnership with Hamilton’s licensed home child care providers. The way the City provided this service locally in partnership with licensed home child care providers across the city both increased convenience for the parents, and also lowered the risk of COVID-19 infections and outbreaks.
• Supported child development, the economy and the viability of licensed child care businesses through flexible funding of the local child care system, and support with enhanced health and safety measures to protect staff and children.
• Accelerated the implementation and adoption of virtual and online services including virtual walk-in mental health services for children and youth, “My Child Care Account” for fee subsidy, online Home Management Program, virtual groups through the Alcohol Drugs and Gambling Services, expansion of Seniors Centre Without Walls.
Key HSC Initiatives for 2021
• Continued support for the COVID-19 emergency response including system-wide vaccine rollout and supporting vulnerable residents.
• Post-COVID-19 emergency transition across health and human services systems health, social, and economic recovery.
• Human Services Integration continuing to look for opportunities to offer services to clients in a variety of ways to meet their needs building on success and learning from the rapid adoption of online and virtual care services in 2020.
• The building and completion of at least 400 new affordable housing units due to strategic investment on the part of the municipal, provincial and federal governments in alignment with the stretch targets established by Hamilton’s Housing and Homelessness Action Plan.
• View the 2021 Healthy and Safe Communities Tax Operating Budget Presentation