Although there is little public awareness, a community of professional social service, justice, mental health and addiction agencies have been getting together on a weekly basis for the past five years to connect with people in our community who are at imminent harm.

Carizon addresses issues in Waterloo Region pertaining to children’s mental health, youth engagement and development, family violence, individual and family counselling, credit counselling, settlement supports and collective wellness. These are the people who step in when not stepping in may cost someone their life.

According to their website, Carizon is a source of hope for our community. When children, youth, adults, couples or families face life’s challenges, Carizon programs and services provide the care and compassion to help them achieve wellness.

With a head office located in the heart of the City of Kitchener, Carizon provides a full spectrum of services in more than 70 locations throughout the Region. One of those services is Connectivity KW4 — a commitment to providing services in a way that respects the dignity and independence of people unless an alternative measure is necessary to enable the person to access services.

Connectivity KW4 is an open table discussion that occurs weekly, involving 30 local agencies, including the hospital and police. Any one of those social agencies can present a situation of a client who is at acutely elevated risk – by that, they mean the risk is so high that something very bad is likely to happen very soon. Many of these situations can involve several factors of intersecting risks. Carizon has one agency representative at the table, representing Front Door – Children’s Mental Health.

This October, Connectivity KW4 turned five. Intake worker and overall navigator for the program, Anita Fieguth, sat down to discuss some key issues people with mental illness face in our community, the history of the organization and how they are helping change this.

“There is an understanding of the various agencies around the table and just other community partners to the work that we do, and how we do work, which is great,” Fieguth said.

Five years ago, there were not many situation tables in Ontario. Initially, when Sue Coulter decided to spearhead the program, all of the protocols, the decisions around who should be at the table, how they work with privacy and how they define acutely elevated risk, had to be developed from the ground up.

“In my role, I make sure that the meetings run smoothly, that the information is there for everybody who needs it and that in the conversation around the table everybody’s heard. We use a kind of consensus model — so we make sure that if there are dissenting voices that they’re heard and everyone does come to an agreement at the end,” Fieguth said.

Connectivity KW4 needs to make sure the criteria for a person, or family, or situation, is an acutely elevated risk. Fieguth explained that means that if it’s beyond the scope of an agency and beyond the scope of their connections. The situation is too big, at that point. A decision is made to bring a situation to the table. Before that happens, they try everything possible first before getting to that point.

“So we don’t just willy nilly open everything that comes to the table because we want to be sure that this is acutely elevated and that that gives us the ability to disclose a person’s personal information because there are dangers to either them or the community and that overrides the person’s right to their privacy. We take that conversation very seriously and that can take a lot of time. The table can go back and forth. Are we opening this or not? It’s a tough one,” Fieguth said.

After the open table meeting, they continue to communicate over email about who’s going to visit, who’s going to intervene, while working together to try to get the person’s consent to work with them — so privacy is not an issue anymore.

“It’s their freedom to talk about this person away from the table. So, sometimes we’ve had to keep situations open at the table because they have not been able to get consent right away. It’s the only way, legally, that we can continue to work with them, while they’re still open at the table. Because as soon as it’s closed, then those consents and privacy legislation comes back,” explained Fieguth.

Fieguth said that the other benefit to Connectivity KW4 existing is that prior to, a lot of the social agencies around the table would have operated in what they call silos. They wouldn’t know much, maybe they knew a little bit about what the other ones were doing, but they didn’t have that relationship with someone in those agencies.

“What we found, around the table, is that those relationships formed between agencies and now I can already deal with the situation because of that. So that part has been huge,” she said.

Fieguth wants the public to know that Connectivity KW4 isn’t about calling if you need help: it’s about community partners bringing situations forward, taking people by the hand and putting a plan in place.

If you would like to volunteer or would like more information about the program please visit Carizon Family and Community Services.

This article was changed from its original form on Nov. 8 2019.