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Healthy & Safe Communities department budget presentation highlights COVID-19 response, transformation of services and supports for residents

HAMILTON, ON – Today, the City’s 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, the building of new affordable housing units, climate positive work, continuous quality improvement initiatives, and a look ahead at major areas of focus in 2021.

In 2020, the Healthy and Safe Communities (HSC) Department mobilized quickly in response to COVID-19 to protect public health, preserve health care and human services system capacity, and ensure residents could access the services they rely on that are essential to their well-being.

The presentation outlined how the department contributed to the City’s COVID-19 response including how HSC ensured for the safe continuity of services, strengthened partnerships to support various aspects of the response, and supported human services and health systems through rapid change. Central to the response was the enthusiasm and willingness of staff to take on new roles and to deliver services in new ways as part of an all-hands-on-deck response to the changing needs of the community.

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 due to one-time funding from the Province of Ontario towards childcare and early learning.

2020 Highlights

  • The extraordinary leadership of Public Health Services in response to the emerging global public health emergency beginning in January and through 2020 using timely intelligence and science to react appropriately, as well as providing up-to-date, transparent information to the public. 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, management of 154 COVID-19 outbreaks.
  • 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. 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. 
  • 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. 
  • Housed over 700 households from Hamilton’s Access to Housing wait list into rent-geared to income units, in the private market using portable housing benefits, and from intensive case management and Rapid Rehousing programs.  
  • 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. 
  • Council will consider final approval of the City’s overall tax operating budget by late March.


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