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County close to approving additional security for Ontario Works building

'There is an increased number of people in the community suffering from mental-health issues and I feel that is what this is more about,' says official

Ontario Works is one step closer to getting the added security at its Bayfield Street location that officials believe will help deter threats against their staff.

At Tuesday’s of committee of the whole meeting, Simcoe County councillors voted to approve county staff’s request for a full-time security guard at the Ontario Works building, located near downtown Barrie at 136 Bayfield St., at a cost of $82,000 for a one-year pilot project.

“We’ve seen a significant increase in the number of individuals who are experiencing aggressive behaviour and certainly that ties into the mental-health crisis we have in our communities,” said Ontario Works director Jamie Moran.

While staff has crisis training and other support systems that tie into what they would need to deal with aggressive people, the increase in incidents led to the proposal before county council for a security guard.

The staff report in front of councillors indicated the changing landscape of the city’s downtown in relation to the ongoing opioid crisis was also a possible link to the verbal threats and hostile behaviour being seen at the office building.

“Certainly, I would say that the opioid crisis is a part of this, but there is an increased number of people in the community suffering from mental-health issues and I feel that is what this is more about,” Moran said. “We feel a security guard will deter this type of behaviour and with this being a one-year pilot project, we can track the occurrences and see the results.”

Moran also said they are also looking into another pilot project, which would see the creation of a service hub in the Barrie building, including the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), Barrie police and other organizations.

The goal is to have the hub running in four to six months.

However, approving the request for a security guard could happen as soon as mid-July or early August.

The Ontario Works location in Barrie served more than 3,000 cases over a 12-month period ending March 31, 2019, which includes Barrie and neighbouring areas. This caseload represents 54 per cent of the total 5,603 for Simcoe County.

The $82,000 request includes taxes, a cost which would be shared evenly with the province, as well as further cost shared with the separated cities of Barrie and Orillia.

The decision made on Tuesday still needs to be ratified at the regular council meeting on June 25.

Shawn Gibson

About the Author: Shawn Gibson

Shawn Gibson is a staff writer based on Barrie
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