Bridge model connecting Islanders at risk of harm to programs and services

Charlottetown Police Cst. Tim Keizer, Public Schools Branch counselling consultant Craig Clark, and PEI Family Violence Prevention Services Coor. Gloria Dennis discuss how Island agencies collaborate to help Islanders through the Bridge Situation Table.

Strengthening Mental Health Services -

Craig Clark recognizes that sometimes people find themselves in really difficult situations and need a little help.

The counselling consultant with the Public Schools Branch has spent the last several months as part of a team of human service providers working to improve outcomes for Islanders at high risk of harm. He says this collaborative service model, known as the Bridge, is making a difference.

The Bridge offers assistance to Islanders facing serious, often time-sensitive issues including violence or abuse, homelessness, or mental health concerns. It allows critical information sharing among staff of government departments and community-based agencies working with people at an acute elevated risk of serious harm happening soon.

“What makes the Bridge different is that the silos really are broken down,” Clark said. “Once we’re able to identify what services that we have to offer, we’re better able to coordinate all those services and offer them in a more effective manner.”

The collaboration takes place around a Situation Table, where service providers meet regularly to address situations with multiple risk factors. More than 42 situations from across the province have been considered at the Situation Table since September 2016.  Of those, 100 people were connected to services they might have not ordinarily have known.

The team carefully considers circumstances and looks for ways to reduce any immediate risk, then reaches out -- within 24 to 48 hours -- to connect people to a combination of services. The resulting offer of support is strictly voluntary, with referrals coming to the Situation Table from participating government and non-government agencies including:

• Education
• Child Protection
• Social Programs
• Municipal Police Services
• PEI Family Violence Prevention
• Mi’kmaq Confederacy of PEI
• Probation
• Public Health
• Adult Protection
• Mental Health and Addictions
• Victim Services

Craig Clark says this Situation Table approach is a proactive one, with all of the different agencies working together to prevent harm from happening.
“We want to identify those risks or warning signs earlier on, so that we can put in appropriate supports and services that match the individuals and families at a point where we can make some change and some difference,” he says.

“This partnership really allows the various agencies to see all of the issues an individual or family may be facing,” says Premier Wade MacLauchlan, minister of Justice and Public Safety.  “With a complete picture, the team is better able to problem-solve and offer immediate support in situations with a high risk of harm. Even if the person doesn’t accept the offer at the time, they know where to access the resources when they are ready.”

Reaching information-sharing agreements with municipal police services and the RCMP was one of the initial successes of the Bridge. Everyone involved agrees that having all the partners at the table makes a difference.

“It’s absolutely a team,” said Gloria Dennis, coordinator with PEI Family Violence Prevention Services. “Everybody is working together – we’ve developed a good rapport and understanding of how each other works.”

Charlottetown Police Constable Tim Keizer says those connections go beyond the Situation Table.
“Now we can access individuals, not only at the table, but we’ve also made relationships with people at these different agencies and they can point us in the right direction of providing help,” Keizer says.

Nearly 900 professionals from education, human services, family law, and public health groups across the Island have received information on the Bridge model. So far, more than 165 professionals have enrolled in, or completed, the Bridge training that is available across the province to support the operations of the Situation Table.

Visit Bridge Model to watch a video about how the program is making a real difference. 

Media contact:
Department of Justice and Public Safety
Katie MacDonald

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