Regional social services (June 22, 2023)
My first ‘Regional News’ (below) focused on the vastness of Durham Region and how Uxbridge, despite its geography, represents a very small percentage of the population. The second, two-part article, (below) provided a high-level view of the variety of services the Region manages.
Eclipsed only by police services, the second largest regional operating budget item is social services. Fortunately, many Uxbridge residents live a life that requires minimal awareness of the full breadth of these services. But Durham Region supports individuals who require various levels of assistance throughout their life, and our community is not immune to these needs. The eight regional municipalities would be unable to provide the human and financial resources necessary to effectively deliver these critical services individually. Centralizing these important services is paramount to their success.
Social services programs contribute to the health and well-being of our community. People may experience hardship or personal challenges that require the help and support of programs provided by the Durham Region Social Services Department. These include childcare, financial assistance, housing, employment, counselling, seniors and community outreach. Residents in Uxbridge are entitled to full access to the services. Some are provided locally, and others are centralized in the larger centers. While it would be ideal to provide parallel services in each municipality, Social Services is no different than any other department and must operate within defined budgets.
In Uxbridge Township, regional staff are available to engage with residents seeking assistance on a variety of programs. Often one of the most difficult steps is the first one. Staff will meet 1:1 to listen and understand the nature of the needs. Residents can expect compassionate help identifying the applicable regional services, and direction on other programs that may be provided via the provincial and federal governments. When upper tiers of government are to be used, for example employment and income assistance or creating replacement government identification, regional staff will provide specific contacts and, often, assistance completing applications.
Family Services Durham provides individual, couples, and family counselling here in Uxbridge. The topics they can help with range from anger management to drug and alcohol problems as well as parenting, relationships, self-harm, and help with mental health.
Locally offered regional social services continue with supports for seniors. The Region runs three adult day programs that provide supervised therapeutic, social, and recreational programming in a secure setting. The programs are for adults living with cognitive impairments, including Alzheimer’s and similar conditions.
The EarlyON program offered in Uxbridge partners with the YMCA and Durham Farm and Rural Family Resources to offer programming for families with young children. The service includes the Baby Café for new and expectant mothers.
Children-oriented supports include help via the Children’s Services Division, which provides funding and system oversight to special needs resourcing agencies, who work in childcare to support staff in creating inclusive environments for all children.
One of these special agencies is Children’s Developmental & Behavioural Services (CDBS). This agency supports childcare and services in home for children with developmental matters. CDBS is a partner in offering the Autism program “Play Project” that gives caregivers the skills to work with children on the spectrum.
Durham Region Social Services also provides emergency social services and co-ordinates the delivery of services and supports to address immediate, short-term needs in the community. Uxbridge witnessed these services first-hand immediately following the May 2022 tornado. At a recent event at the Animal Shelter, regional teams were on hand to share how they incorporate animal welfare into their responses.
The Primary Care Outreach Program (PCOP) is a partnership with the Region’s Social Services Department and the Health Department. This mobile outreach team involves an advanced care paramedic and social worker who respond to individuals living unsheltered or are at risk of homelessness. This team aims to establish trust, provide medical care and connect vulnerable people to health and social services systems. While heavily focused on the extreme challenges faced in the southern municipalities, PCOP extends its reach to North Durham and is providing much-needed care for individuals right here in Uxbridge.
Homelessness is a growing issue throughout Durham Region. The 2023 regional budget committed record amounts to continuing to address the issue. In Uxbridge, approximately 100 geared-to-income housing units are funded by Durham Region. Additionally, Durham Region funds 80 per cent of North House’s budget. North House then provides critical services such as housing stability support for those at risk of becoming homeless, assistance accessing alternative housing, and guidance on landlord/tenant disputes. They also operate North Durham Service Hubs to assist with issues such as domestic violence, harm reduction, legal issues and more.
Most recently, Durham Region funded the construction of the Beaverton Supportive Housing Project. This 47-unit modular housing development provides accommodation and access to wraparound services to help promote life stabilization. Priority access is given to unsheltered residents in North Durham, including Uxbridge. Move-in is expected to begin late 2023.
Helping those who need it is weaved into the fabric of Uxbridge. It’s through the highly skilled team at Durham Region’s Social Service department that the most effective help is facilitated. To connect to help, simply visit durham.ca or call 311 from anywhere in Durham Region.
What the Region does Part 2 (March 30, 2023)
Last week, I began answering a common question regarding where Uxbridge residents’ regional property tax dollars are invested. I focused on the higher-profile services, such as maintaining the 130+ km network of regional roads located in Uxbridge Township; waste management, including the evolving recycling and green bin programs; and clean water and sewage management.
The article also highlighted Durham Region Police Services (DRPS), and a provided very high-level view of the social services that are available.
Durham Region receives 57 per cent of the residential property taxes Uxbridge Township collects. This week I will continue to explore how those funds are spent, beginning with emergency services.
The Region of Durham Paramedic Services is one of the largest paramedic services in Ontario. Ambulance operations involve more than 330 advanced and primary care paramedics who are stationed at 11 paramedic stations across Durham Region. The region also proactively participates in emergency preparedness with partners such as Public Safety Canada, Ontario Power Generation, and Environment Canada.
In May 2022, Uxbridge witnessed the full breadth of Durham Region’s emergency response capabilities ranging from onsite triage response, police and auxiliary officer support, provision of temporary housing and assisting individuals throughout the impacted area during the tornado-associated blackout.
Often, when emergency assistance is required, a call is made to 911. In 2022, 239,000 such calls were received. Answering 96 per cent of calls within eight seconds requires a minimum of six Regional staff to be in place 24/7. Significant changes to 911 are forthcoming as NextGen911 service is implemented. Durham Region will be among Canada’s earliest adopters of this enhanced national service.
A growing percentage of the collected property taxes is directed to Durham Region Transit (DRT), which helps residents and visitors travel across Durham Region and beyond. DRT operates a fleet of buses and vehicles for scheduled and On-Demand service with a staff of over 500 employees. DRT is now serving a growing number of customers via On Demand transit in areas where ridership levels don’t support regular bus routes. The most recent statistics show that members of the Uxbridge community used On Demand service 7,800 times in 2022.
Public health is a critical service supported by Regional property taxes. Over 400 Durham Region public health employees provide services that include Regional outbreak response, as well as compliance inspections, infectious diseases prevention and control, as well as inspections of migrant farm worker housing and private septic systems.
The Region-wide team also performs the DineSafe Durham program by way of food-establishment inspections, administers 40,000 doses of publicly funded vaccines in community immunization and school-based clinics, distributes 3,000 Naloxone kits/refills, and completes 6,400 home visits to clients in the Healthy Babies, Healthy Children program.
Finally, the Durham Health Connection Line is a service where callers can get immediate help on items ranging from parenting concerns, to help with breastfeeding support, and children, teen, adult, and seniors’ support.
The list of services supported through Regional property taxes continues with Development Planning. The Region reviews applications for developments ranging from infill housing to major residential, commercial and industrial construction projects. As part of the provincial “Build More Homes Faster Act,” Durham Region’s population is expected to double by 2051. Much remains to be defined regarding the future role of regional planning.
For those of us living in North Durham, a little known yet crucial service provided by Durham Region, in partnership with York Region, is the Energy from Waste facility located in Clarington. This world-class facility safely processes 140,000 tonnes of residential waste per year after maximizing waste diversion programs – reducing, reusing, recycling and composting. In turn, it generates enough energy to power approximately 10,000 homes.
To improve Durham Region’s competitiveness, investment is being made in a regional broadband network which will establish a 700-kilometre fibre optic network known as Durham OneNet. Residents in Goodwood and businesses located in the west side of the township, will soon see the benefits of this project as local service providers connect to the OneNet network. Expansion of the network will continue in 2023 and beyond.
Regional property tax dollars are also allocated to conservation authorities. A regional councillor is part of the governance board of directors for each of the five conservation authorities in Durham Region. Among many other activities, the CA’s review development applications, conducts enforcement of illegal fill operations and operates and maintains conservation lands.
Uxbridge has representation on the Toronto Region Conservation Authority, Lake Simcoe Conservation Authority and Central Lake Ontario Conservation Authority.
Column space limits detailing other regional services, but it would be a disservice to not include the benefits Uxbridge receives through the economic development efforts of Invest Durham and the work of Durham Tourism, which encourages visiting, shopping, dining and exploring Uxbridge, in addition to driving industry, film, and employment, agriculture, and industrial land opportunities to our community.
The next quarterly “Connecting with the Region” will provide additional details regarding specific regional services that are available to Uxbridge residents.
What the Region does for us (March 23, 2023)
In my inaugural article last December, I introduced the fundamentals of Durham Region and how Uxbridge fits within it. The key takeaway was that the Region is 2,500 square kilometres and has a population of about 723,000. Uxbridge is approximately 420 square kilometres, about 17 per cent of the Region, and has a population of about 22,500, representing only three per cent of the Region.
Typically, residents understand the services provided by Uxbridge Township. The list includes maintaining local roads, running recreation programs, operating the library, pool and arena and providing community halls, managing development applications and enforcing bylaws, to name a few! These services are paid for by a combination of grants from higher levels of government, a portion of commercial property taxes, and about 27 per cent of residential property taxes. Approximately 57 per cent of residential property taxes are collected by the Township and forwarded directly to Durham Region. This article focuses on the wide-reaching, but often little-known, services provided by Durham Region.
One of the key purposes of establishing Regional government is to centralize services that would be incredibly expensive to provide locally. It’s inconceivable to think of how the eight Durham Region municipalities could provide the services that are supported by a $2.2 billion (2022) budget.
Let’s start with some of the more obvious services that affect our daily lives.
There are over 130km of regional roads in Uxbridge! The list includes Hwy. 47 (Toronto St.), and Reg. Rd. 8 (Brock and Reach Sts.), Brock Road (Coppin’s Corners), Reg. Rd. 13 (in Leaskdale and Zephyr), Reg. Rd. 1 (leading north from town), Reg. Rd. 39 (Zephyr), shared responsibility for York-Durham Line 30, Reg. Rd. 21 (Goodwood), and Reg. Rd. 11 (Sandford). Repairing, rebuilding and maintaining these roads requires major investment. During significant weather events such as the storms we see every winter, if residents must travel, they are encouraged to use regional roads. This is because the region has the staffing levels to provide snow clearing operation 24/7.
The second service most residents depend upon is waste management. The Region contracts bi-weekly garbage pick-up and weekly recycle and organics pick-ups. Major changes are coming to this service as the organics program expands and the blue box program gets rebuilt. The Region also provides yard waste pickup seasonally.
The next service urban residents rely on is the provision of safe drinking water and the management of sewage. Uxbridge is blessed with some of the best water in Durham Region. Fresh water is held in an underground reservoir at a facility on Concession 6. The wastewater treatment facility is located on Main St. north. There are also a number of pumping stations within the urban area to maintain water pressure. Durham Region also provides the kilometres of water and sewer pipes hidden under most roads. Few services are more important than maintaining the highest quality water. It’s worth a quick note that in the event of a watermain or sewage pipe break, residents should immediately call 311.
Uxbridge residents rely on good roads, waste management and clean water practically every day. In contrast, many of the services listed below are often invisible on a day-to-day basis. In fact, it could be stated that the less a resident is aware of, or is utilizing these services, the more blessed their lives are. These services are critical to the safety and social fabric of Uxbridge and all of Durham Region.
Durham Region Police Services (DRPS) provides services ranging from attending large public events to critical tactical services during the darkest of events. These brave women and men are always available. Remember the saying “Just because you don’t see them, doesn’t mean they aren’t there”? That’s them. There are approximately 950 officers in Durham Region, as well as over 300 civilian support employees. The North Division precinct is located on Hwy. 12, south of Reach Rd. Officers dispatched from this location are responsible for Uxbridge, Brock and Scugog Townships, a vast area.
Social services are the second biggest operating budget cost after DRPS. They include the Durham Regional Local Housing Corporation and Durham Region Non-Profit Housing Corporation; child services, family services, income and employment services, and long-term care. During our new council orientation, regional councillors were introduced to some of the incredibly sensitive services these highly trained individuals provide every day. I’m looking forward to sharing those insights in a future column.
Next week I’ll continue to detail the many services provided by Durham Region.
Introducing – the Region! (December 2022)
A person can learn a lot by visiting 6,000 households during an election campaign. When I knocked on doors or met with larger groups in multi-unit buildings, I gained a real sense of what is important to Uxbridge residents. I also learned there is an opportunity to provide a better understanding of the role of Durham Regional government.
In a series of candid columns, I hope to accomplish a series of goals. Initially the intent will be to simply provide a sense of the structure of Durham’s regional government. Future articles will delve into elements such as the breadth of investment and services Uxbridge Township receives from the Region. Given we are part of, and support the Region, it is also important to understand the broader perspective of what is happening throughout Durham Region.
As a matter of transparency, the Cosmos and I agreed that I wouldn’t be compensated for the columns, nor would the Township nor the Region pay for the space. We also agreed that we would judge the success of the initiative and decide if it should continue for the entire term of council.
So, let’s get started with an overview of the Durham Region and how Uxbridge fits! Durham Region is about 2,500 square kilometers. It stretches from Lake Ontario to Lake Simcoe, which is about 75 km ‘as the crow flies’. The east-west distance stretches from well beyond Hwy. 115 to the York-Durham line, which amounts to over 60 km. To provide perspective, Durham Region is similar is size to the country of Luxembourg, half the size of Prince Edward Island and is more than five times the size of Barbados!
Uxbridge Township represents about 17 per cent of Durham Region area and is a sprawling 420 square kilometers.
Durham Region consists of eight municipalities – Uxbridge, Brock, Scugog (North Durham), Pickering, Ajax, Whitby, Oshawa and Clarington. The Region’s 2021 population was 723,000. The biggest city is Oshawa at 182,000 and Whitby the second largest at over 144,000. Here in North Durham, Brock is 13,000 and Scugog and Uxbridge are very similar at about 22,500 each.
Simple math shows Uxbridge represents 17 per cent of the region’s land area but only about three per cent of the population. Together the three northern townships represent over 50 per cent of the geographic area but only eight per cent of the population.
Uxbridge, Scugog and Brock each elect one regional councillor. This individual remains an active member of their local council and also represents their Township at Durham Region. The mayors of each township are automatically selected to regional council.
The municipalities to the south elect their representatives either by municipal ward or at-large. The southern municipalities are represented as follows (including mayors); Oshawa 6, Whitby 5, Pickering 4, Ajax 4 and Clarington 3. In total, Durham Region Council consists of 20 regionally elected councillors plus eight mayors and one elected chair.
Much like local Uxbridge council, regionally elected officials are assigned specific committee responsibilities. It was recently announced Mayor Barton will be the chair of Durham Region Public Works. I am assigned to the Finance & Administration committee. I have also been assigned the role of a commissioner on Durham Region Transit.
The regional role also involves providing representation with the conservation authorities. I will represent Uxbridge at the Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority (LSRCA) and the Central Lakes Ontario Conservation Authority (CLOCA).
In future columns, I will begin to detail the broad spectrum of services provided by Durham Region. I will also identify which services are offered in Uxbridge and outline how to connect to services that are centralized in other communities. I’ll also outline the recently announced 311 service that provides a simple way to get connected to any regional department.
I wish all residents of Uxbridge a very Merry Christmas and a happy holiday season. From my family to yours, we wish everyone a healthy and happy 2023.