Kenora’s Sharon Smith is pushing for more sustainable funding from the province to support public health units and municipalities, as the region deals with skyrocketing policing rates and poor health outcomes. Smith says that alcohol abuse is a major contributing factor.
The city councillor and vice-chair of the Northwestern Board of Health made a presentation to Ontario’s finance minister last week in Kenora, as part of Ontario’s pre-budget consultations detailing some of the city’s struggles.
Notably, Smith says that the city has it “on good information” that over 90 per cent of all policing calls in the City of Kenora are to address alcohol abuse. Smith did not reveal her source of the information during the presentation.
“Mental health and addiction issues are better-managed as public health issues, not criminal issues. We are paying police to do short-term work that has little impact on the challenges that we face.”
She adds that the City of Kenora is one of six communities in the province, where policing costs are over $600 per household. The per household cost for the OPP’s services in Kenora is roughly $749.
Smith used these financial figures to show how difficult it’s been for municipalities to absorb additional costs from the province, including the merger of public health units, with municipalities now expected to pick up more of the costs.
She lobbied Finance Minister Rod Phillips for sustainable funding to address the population’s health needs, and to restore the previous 75 per cent to 25 per cent funding split between the province and municipalities.
“Our region has the worst health outcomes in the province. This is due in part to higher rates of health complications that result in illness, partly because of social determinants of health that affect our region.”
“We face difficult social challenges in our communities, many are directly related to, or rooted in historical colonial relationship with our Indigenous communities, including the legacy of residential schools, the 60s Scoop and the resulting trauma.”
“We are working in partnership with our Indigenous neighbours to help build capacity in their communities, and are walking the path of reconciliation together. We need provincial partnerships to make lives better in our communities.”
Smith adds that roughly 36 per cent of all children between the ages of zero and 17 in the Kenora District, live in low-income households.