Vulnerable persons are individuals whose circumstances place them at an increased risk of harm, abuse or exploitation. These individuals may include: senior citizens; persons with physical, developmental or cognitive disabilities; victims of crime or harm; and those with a mental illness. East and West Parry Sound Victim Services (EWPSVS) is establishing a centralized, secure, electronic vulnerable persons database (VPD). The purpose of the VPD is to provide vulnerable persons with timely and appropriate assistance when there is reason to suspect that they may be at risk. The database ensures that a broad range of relevant organizations can be mobilized quickly in order to best protect vulnerable individuals.
Organizations with access to the VPD will include:
East and West Parry Sound Victim Services;
The Ontario Provincial Police;
Parry Sound Emergency and Protective Services;
Community living organizations; and
Community mental health services.
In addition to organizations with direct access to the VPD, EWPSVS will share a registrant’s personal information with other community agencies if they may be able to assist or protect the registrant.
How the VPD Operates
EWPSVS will maintain a secure, electronic database with relevant information about registered vulnerable persons. The recorded information will include: the registrant’s name, address and phone number; any physical, cognitive or mental health problems; any needed life-sustaining treatment; essential medications; mobility concerns; and communication difficulties. When a VPD registrant is thought to be at risk, his or her personal information will be shared with relevant organizations, enabling them to quickly respond and provide effective assistance to the registrant. The following examples illustrate how the VPD operates.
Example 1: A long-term care home calls the police when an elderly resident with dementia goes missing. The police will access the VPD to determine if the missing person is registered with the service. If the elderly resident is registered, the police will find the person’s physical description, a list of his or her emergency contacts, and other relevant information that may assist them in locating the registrant.
Example 2: A severe thunderstorm causes flooding and large-scale power outages. Local emergency services will use the VPD to identify registrants who may require urgent assistance, such as individuals who are dependent on electronic life-sustaining equipment or who may be in need of essential medications.
Registration in the VPD
In order to register in the VPD, an individual (or, where appropriate, his or her substitute decision-maker) must arrange an intake appointment with EWPSVS. At the intake appointment, the vulnerable person or his or her substitute decision-maker will be informed of the VPD’s purpose, operation and confidentiality policies. EWPSVS staff will review the Registration Form with the vulnerable person or substitute decision-maker, and will assist him or her in completing it. The staff will also review the “Consent to the Collection, Use and Disclosure of Personal Information” form. If the vulnerable person or his/her substitute decision-maker decides to register, the vulnerable person’s information will be electronically entered into the VPD.
The vulnerable person or his/her substitute decision-maker will be provided with a copy of the VPD’s confidentiality policies for his or her own records.
Over the last few years the staff and volunteers of East and West Parry Sound Victim Services have been working hard to develop a new program to better assist the population of the Parry Sound district.
The Vulnerable Persons Database was came into being for several reasons;
The existing “Wanderers Registry” is the result of the hard work of a local police officer who has taken the initiative to create an informal registry. Due to time constraints and jurisdictions this informal wanderers registry is a hard copy file, kept in office, encompasses only the west side of Parry Sound and only covers certain vulnerable person’s needs.
The OPP, EMS, senior support services, long term care facilities and the hospital have identified a need for a centralized, accessible database for vulnerable persons in the District of Parry Sound.
A pilot project was established and highly successful in Sault Ste Marie. This project has been assumed by the Red Cross. The Red Cross is planning to further expand the program to encompass all of the communities it serves in Ontario. However, the District of Parry Sound is not served by the Red Cross and therefore would not be included.
East and West Parry Sound Victim Services seeing the gap in service took on the initiative of formalizing and expanding the Vulnerable Persons Database (VPD). The VPD will encompass the entire Parry Sound District. The VPD will offer assistance to anyone who is vulnerable or at risk in a crisis or emergency situation. This would include individuals who are at risk of wandering, in need of medical assistance in a natural disaster/power outage or any other crisis that may pose a risk to their wellbeing.
The VPD will be open to anyone free of charge living in the East & West Parry Sound area who feels they are vulnerable in times of emergencies and would like an extra assurance. Victim Services is a 24/7 365 days a year service, the database will be able to be accessed when needed by designated users in a timely manner.