Thursday, March 27, 2014

Health News

Brave New World

Chilliwack Healthier Community forums generate interest, solidify ideas

Released by Jay Niver, CHC


Chilliwack RCMP Cpl. Len van Nieuwenhuizen briefs participants on local crime trends in the CHC’s public-safety forum last month. Below, Karen Stanton, manager of long-range planning for the city of Chilliwack, moderates a break-out session during the fifth forum sponsored by Chilliwack Healthier Community.


utting unity in community, is how one participant described the public forums completed this month by Chilliwack Healthier Community (CHC).


Local residents, officials and service providers met five times in recent weeks to identify community needs and issues surrounding public safety; mental health and substance use; homelessness and affordable housing; and primary healthcare.

The interactive forums began with brief presentations, followed by facilitated group discussions. Participants brainstormed and listed all the issues, or service gaps, within the day’s topic, then voted to rank priorities. Discussion groups then focused on potential solutions to the issues, and ways in which government, agencies and other organizations could partner to effect change.

The forum process produced 18 potential projects that address the highest priority gaps.

“Groundwork has already been laid for six of those projects, which will be among our areas of focus over the next year,” said Sabine Mendez, CHC coordinator. “One of these ideas is already being addressed through the Mayor’s Committee on Housing, and another generated the creation of a Task Team that is working on public-safety workshops.”

All forum outcomes will be reflected in the CHC Strategic Action Plan, a guide for city and CHC initiatives around community health and well-being over the next three years. The original Strategic Action Plan was prepared in early 2011 after similar forums involving 78 participants.

Attendance at these forums was almost three times higher, but some participants attended more than one session.

One recurrent theme was the general lack of knowledge – among the public and service providers alike – of existing available resources.

Participants in the CHC mental-health and substance-use forum vote to prioritize topics. This forum drew almost 60 attendees, more than any other session.


“As we progressed through the forums and identified issues and solutions, we began to hear of work already being done in many of these areas,” said Ken Popove, CHC co-chair and a Chilliwack city councillor. “But the work is taking place in pieces, without common coordination, so we’re not addressing many of the issues completely.”

Forum Five produced four action plans, with dozens of participants indicating interest to work on the projects. The four targeted areas are:

1) low-barrier housing, to provide supportive housing for people with mental-health and substance-use issues;

2) assertive case management, to help individuals with mental challenges;

3) family-friendly policy, to take a family-centred approach to clans’ physical and mental-health issues; and

4) peer mentoring, to help vulnerable youth gain positive experiences and opportunities through interaction with like-aged role models.

“We’re really pleased and excited about the turnout and broad level of participation (in the forums),” Popove said. “We’re updating the Action Plan and laid some solid groundwork for where to go from here.”

Chilliwack Healthier Community is co-chaired by Chilliwack School District #33 and the city of Chilliwack. Popove shares chair duties with SD #33 School Board Trustee Dan Coulter. CHC includes 20-plus partners who volunteer time beyond their regular jobs with local agencies, government, service providers, and other organizations.

Funding for the forum series was provided by a grant from BC Healthy Communities.


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