What is the Situation Table Model?

The Situation Table Model, a unique public safety model that originated in Canada in 2011, is a “risk-based, collaborative, rapid triage model.” Unlike other models, it doesn’t require a specific delivery mechanism. Instead, it leverages and mobilizes the existing community systems and resources in innovative, unified, and dynamic ways to address the challenges faced by a specific vulnerable population.

The Situation Table Model is designed to identify individuals and/or families facing acutely elevated levels of risk (AER) and connect them to services immediately. Its key benefits include timely resource mobilization, increased awareness of risks, trends, and systemic issues, improved collaboration and communication among service providers, proactive measures, and enhanced community safety and well-being.

Integrating the Situation Table Model into community services doesn’t necessitate funding a separate entity or creating a new organization. It involves meaningful conversations between community-involved agencies, providing new tools for human service professionals to enhance their current roles. These structured conversations focus on pre-identified risk factors in specific communities, effectively breaking down barriers to communication between service agencies.

What Agencies are Involved in a Situation Table Model

The entire list of involved agencies in the Situation Table Model will depend on the community’s specific needs. However, in every community, the following agencies should be involved: law enforcement, mental health, addictions, and education. Other supporting agencies could include those focused on services around housing, income assistance, health, victim services, and child and family services.

Additional agencies may also be temporarily brought on to deal with evolving situations. In communities dealing with a large-scale tragedy or natural disaster, the Situation Table Model can be an effective way to incorporate new service providers into the web of pre-existing community services. This incorporation greatly increases the community’s efficiency in determining where unmet needs exist.

Communities with high percentages of indigenous populations have also used situation table models to integrate tribal resources and outside community agencies. This has dramatically increased indigenous populations’ access to these programs.

How does a Situation Table Model Work?

The essential component of The Situation Table Model is a weekly 90-minute conversation between justice professionals and front-line human services professionals to address AER situations in a collaborative setting.

Acutely Elevated Risk (AER) refers to a situation negatively affecting individuals/families in which the risk of an ‘imminent’ negative outcome is present. This negative outcome may take the form of criminalization, victimization, or other harm. Some examples of situations involving AER(Acutely Elevated Risk) may be offending or victimization, lapsing on a treatment plan, or an overt mental health crisis.

The Situation Table Model uses The Four Filter Process as a triage method to determine if AER is present in an individual or family. The first filter of this process is the Individual Agency Screening. This is a method for employees within an organization who have identified situations where individuals/families are facing AER to complete a referral for submission to the designated individual. The designated individual for each organization will bring these situations to the group at the Situation Table.

The second filter of this process is to determine if AER is, in fact, present. The lead agency will provide a ‘high-level’ update to inform the other Table members whether the AER has been addressed. Importantly, no identified data is shared in the Situation Table. Only information regarding risk and the agencies involved is shared. This determination is done by identifying and discussing the risk factors present in a situation. The table will have a pre-existing method for determining when the identified risk factors present an AER.

The third filter of this process is limited disclosure. If the AER has not yet been addressed, limited disclosure of information is presented to determine which agencies should be involved in the situation. All participating parties sign an Information Sharing Agreement (ISA). Only the agencies that have signed the ISA can participate in the fourth filter.

The fourth and final filter of this process is the ‘door knock’ intervention. In this method, the agencies involved in addressing a specific problem leave the meeting with a planned next step to occur within 24-48 hours. This next step will be to connect individuals/families with the identified organizations so that services can be provided.

After the intervention, care will continue in a typical collaborative care manner. It is important to note that Situation Tables will not carry an independent caseload or perform case management. These services continue to be performed by the independent agencies involved. This makes the implementation of a successful Situation Table Model reliant on the success of a community’s existing Co-Responder program, as discussed more fully below.

What are the Benefits of a Situation Table Model?

Formal research studying the benefits of a Situation Table Model is limited because the method has only been implemented for just over a decade. Neilsen performed the primary study on the matter in 2014 in Prince Albert, Canada. The results of this study revealed that the model broke down long-standing barriers in information-sharing practices between service agencies. The research also showed that clients were gaining quicker access to services and access to services that they were previously excluded from. 

Most significantly, this 2014 research showed that the Situation Table Model reduces the risk and probability of harm for individuals and families. More research on this topic will continue to be released within the next several years.

The most significant benefit of The Situation Table Model is its ability to reduce barriers to providing services to individuals and families. Communities often have several great service providers performing exceptional work. However, there is usually a severe lack of information shared between these agencies, and the individuals and families served by these agencies suffer as a result.

This model also provides an additional benefit: that situations of AER are evaluated through a multi-agency lens. This effort prevents a specific agency, often law enforcement or a similarly funded government organization, from determining how an entire community will face an issue. By identifying existing services available to individuals and families, communities can more easily identify where additional funding is required to implement additional services and where enhanced communication and cooperation would provide similar results. By focusing on risk instead of incidents, this Model allows communities to stay ahead of issues before problems can increase significantly.

How Julota Can be Used to Coordinate Situation Table Model Services

Communities that want to incorporate a Situation Table Model or improve an existing Co-Responder program may find that selecting a data-driven program will provide the most benefit.

The Situation Table Model is best implemented in a community where some efforts at collaborative justice have already begun. A community that has not yet taken steps in this direction may first want to implement an original Co-Responder Program. Communities that have the greatest need for this type of program are communities with large populations of individuals living in poverty, with mental illness or addiction, and closely tied to the criminal justice system.

Research has shown considerable benefits to communities that participate in data-driven Co-Responder programs. These benefits may include a lower hospitalization rate, lower incarceration rate, reduced healthcare spending, and reduced criminal justice systems. Communities that implement Co-Responder programs also report a greater sense of community safety and positive community engagement by law enforcement. For specific populations, such as individuals dealing with mental illness, living in a community with co-responder programs significantly increased their access to social services. It also dramatically enhances the community’s ability to assess whether these populations’ needs are being met.

Using a data-driven software platform like Julota will also allow agencies to ensure compliance with federal, state, and local privacy laws. This will ensure that conversations can occur between agencies with different access to information without privacy concerns developing. This compliance will be maintained while agency partners can input information about situations involving AER on their own devices in real time.

A situation table model is even more beneficial to data-driven software than a typical co-responder program because it requires sharing high-level data between agencies. This Model will be most effective when each involved agency has easy access to report incidents of AER and agency involvement in specific situations. This ease of access will impact the amount of information brought to the Situation Table to be discussed by involved agencies.