Bashaw Community Wellness looking to make a big difference with changes

Bashaw Community Wellness looking to make a big difference with changes

Town council supportive of collaborative community service model proposed

Unique challenges often require partnership, hard work and a distinct plan of attack.

Bashaw’s Community Wellness Committee wants to address a somewhat unworkable patchwork of local mental health supports through Alberta Health Services (AHS).

The committee — made of up Bashaw and District Support Services (BDSS), Bashaw RCMP, Bashaw School and Bashaw Adult Learning Council (ALC) — gave a presentation on its suggestion to develop a rural community service centre during the town council meeting April 19.

Jackie Northey from the ALC was joined by BDSS’s Christine Buelow, RCMP Sgt. Bruce Holliday and school principal Myranda Shepherd, who collaborated on this potential solution after noticing there were issues that needed to be tackled regarding readily accessible mental health services.

“It is hard enough dealing with the regular mental health issues and one year ago we came together to see how we could all make a difference,” Northey stated.

Holliday added there’s a large amount of interactions his detachment is having with individuals but they’re unable to help.

“We know that the sooner we can engage them with services and supports the less likely the police will be dealing with them later on. We do good with those with straight forward needs, but I quickly learned that we continually go to the same locations, deal with people and then are back again sometimes the same day,” he said.

“We are not equipped to deal with this, but end up wearing many hats. That’s when this started. We are not doing right by these people and need to help them.”

Because of the growing number of people needing these services and the increasing need for higher, more specific mental health treatment, the committee feel now is the time for a less fragmented and piece meal approach.

“Bashaw has a lot of single, many low income families, people on AISH (Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped) and our community has some great services, which makes it a good place for these people to come,” said Northey.

“To help address all of this, we need to get a proper neighbourhood place where we can focus on presenting services to these individuals needs instead of distinguishing between who is offering them. In order to do that, we are looking at rebranding who we are, creating awareness of what is available, creating information for referrals and counselling. People think they know what they need, but they don’t understand what is available.”

The new delivery model would allow them to sit down with clients to discuss their needs and see what supports can assist with those needs. Currently, clients may wind up dealing with various agencies and restating information several times, yet falling through the cracks due to a lack of followup and continuity.

The community’s profile shows some reasons for the higher level of need — 35 per cent of Bashaw families have incomes below the provincial average, Bashaw Food Bank usage last year was 405, which included 99 children and that year there were 1,066 social support inquires made.

One other dramatic statistic is Alberta has one non-profit organization for every 167 people. In Bashaw however, that figure is significantly higher at one for every 18, which translated into 47 non-profit and volunteer organizations in a community with a town and rural population of about 1,600.

Buelow noted the service will not be a 24-hour, seven day a week catch-all for mental health, but rather a more immediate form of support that will give clients what they need while they wait to transition for those more specific services.

“There have been three (mental health crisis) in the last three days. A piece of this project is to help support these people and we don’t want to lose them,” she added.

On the school side, Shepherd isn’t seeing anything new with what services they are currently providing students, but feels this new model would assist them.

“As a rural area, we are unique and there is a bit of a disconnect when it comes to accessing many professional services,” she said, remarking that AHS services are available, yet fragmented.

“They kind of parachute in and we all know crisis doesn’t happen at that certain time, which is why this would provide better access. We work with students and parents, but the first thing they ask is how far do they have to drive for services. That’s one of our limitations.”

Council was supportive of the initiative and wants to help. This includes booking the Bashaw Community Centre for a town hall meeting about the project and the issues behind it on May 17. The hope is to have provincial and federal politicians attend in order to lobby for their support.

“We are approaching this with the attitude for why wait for someone else to come up with a rural delivery model, but let us figure out how we can make it work, then tell them what we need to get it done,” Northey stated.

BashawBashaw RCMPBashaw SchoolBDSSmental health