App Connects Community to Help
The Community Asset Portal (CAP) is a web application that shows an up-to-date map of social services such as shelters, community resource navigators, and mental health and youth support services. The app detects the location of users and allows them to see the resources using a colour-coded map or by moving through a list of categories, such as Health or Food & Housing services. It also shows people how to get to the location by car, foot and public transit, as well as gives contact information.
It was developed by Ryerson Geography students in collaboration with Toronto Police Service Business Intelligence, the City of Toronto Social Research & Information Management Unit, and using data provided by FindHelp/211.
“The key purpose was to provide frontline officers quick access to services for connecting people to resources, or to be able to make referrals to people in need or their families to follow up on later,” said Ian Williams, Business Intelligence & Analytics manager. “We’re hoping that those types of referrals will lead to fewer calls to the police since the community can connect to resources to get proactive and not reactive assistance.”
The app came out of a recommendation in the Iacobucci Report, Police Encounters with People In Crisis, asking police to develop more education on mental-health services for officers through a comprehensive list or map.
With an average of about 70 mental-health calls to the Service each day, many that do not result in a mental-health apprehension, officers will now be able to recommend resources with the help of CAP.
Mobile Crisis Intervention Teams (MCITs), which partner a nurse and police officer to respond to mental health calls, will benefit from having a new resource to help connect clients to ongoing support to prevent a crisis where police are called to help.
“It will aid MCIT officers and nurses in matching clients to services based on their specific needs. Additionally, it will inform MCIT staff about various services that are available within the areas that they work and provide the teams with another tool for meeting the needs of clients,” said Leah Dunbar, MCIT project manager for Michael Garron Hospital. “Navigation can be a barrier for many MCIT clients as often clients are unsure where to go for help or support. By providing a Community Access Portal that City of Toronto residents can access, either themselves or with the support of MCIT, it will help them to identify and access services they may have not been able to find.
“The system of human services is large and complex and it’s difficult to know where to turn, especially in a crisis. Having the information readily available will empower the public to find and access the services that best meet their needs,” said FindHelp/211 Executive Director & CEO Sue Wilkinson.
She said police officers are natural users of their information, which links to a variety of human services from healthcare to government to transportation.
“We all know that police officers are frequently called to emergency or crisis situations. This tool will allow them to immediately find appropriate services for an individual experiencing a mental health crisis. Combining online access to the information with the 2-1-1 phone service makes it easier for police officers to get immediate support,” Wilkinson said.
Click here to use Community Asset Portal
Ryerson Master’s students Joseph Ariwi, Gabby Lee, Ela Lichtbau and Gary Moloney designed the portal, lending their expertise in spatial geography, to display the data into a user-friendly portal.
“We researched how we can best design the app so officers can access the most information as quickly as possible,” said Ariwi. “They’re on a shift. If the app is cumbersome or slow or hard to understand, then they won’t use it, because it would be more of a hindrance than a help.”
“The partnership provides excellent experiential learning opportunities for students to apply knowledge and techniques in a real-world setting and learn new skills on the job and see a real social impact of the work,” said Master of Spatial Analyses Graduate Program Director Lu Wang.