With 36 organizations involved in the Chilliwack Healthier Community (CHC) partnership, and the list continuing to grow, this enthusiastic team works to address the most urgent social issues identified by the community.
It’s a good sign when the room is still packed after nine back-to-back presentations. This was the scene at the last Chilliwack Healthier Community (CHC) Networking Breakfast series. The breakfasts are an opportunity for people working in social services and health-related careers to connect. “The events start at 8:30am and there are still people networking after 10:30,” says Sabine Mendez, the CHC Coordinator, “every presentation is full of information that people want and need. “
The breakfasts are held at the new Neighbourhood Learning Centre – a welcoming hub of community collaboration, where several agencies co-locate in order to deliver services more effectively. This is an appropriate venue to hold the CHC Information and Networking Breakfasts – events designed to further CHC’s overall mandate of building collaborative partnerships to better address complex social issues.
Learning from the Process
Although Chilliwack has a reputation for working across sectors, these opportunities to connect were not always available.
Since 2001, the community of Chilliwack has consistently identified three priority issues impacting the community: crime and public safety, mental health and substance use, and homelessness and affordable housing. Many passionate Chilliwack citizens attempted to address the community’s most urgent social issues but they lacked a system for learning what was happening in the field community-wide.
In 2009, the City of Chilliwack consulted several advisory committees, examined action plans, and led a series of public engagement events to determine the community’s highest priorities. The process led to forming the Chilliwack Healthier Community Stewardship Council in 2012, now known as the CHC partnership. Soon after that Sabine Mendez was hired as the coordinator.
Mendez had a long list of contacts and started calling them personally. The phone calls laid the groundwork for building trust and understanding. “The first thing I did was have one-on-one meetings with every single partner. All of this work is about relationship-building,” explains Mendez. “The more we build relationships, the more we become aware of what everyone else is doing. You can’t work together unless you know what other people are doing.”
Connections Between Partners & Stakeholders
In 2014, the CHC received the PlanH Healthy Communities Capacity Building (HCCB) Grant, and the team convened an impactful five-forum series, which focused on the three priority issues as well as healthy lifestyles.
They held one forum for each key area of interest and collaborated with the Chilliwack Division of Family Practice on the fourth forum in the series. The final forum pulled out the learnings and created action items for the strategic plan.
During these forums over 200 community members and service providers delved into deep discussion resulting in a list of gaps, opportunities and ideas for action that each organizations could pursue.
Anne Todd is one of five Fraser Health representatives at the table. Todd put forward time and expertise to support the work of CHC in many ways, for example, by providing health information and resources. She was impressed with the level of community interest and engagement, “Chilliwack has a can-do, take-charge attitude towards every issue that comes up…and everyone is on board with it.”
“Alone an organization can’t deal with a complex issue, but together we can.” — Karen Stanton, City of Chilliwack
“The community forums gave us the opportunity to bring physicians, community members and service providers together and I think that’s the first time in our community for all three of those groups to be at the same table at the same time, focused on a specific issue” stated Katrina Bepple, Programs Lead at the Chilliwack Division of Family Practice, “The series gave us really invaluable information for moving forward with our [Action] Plan for CHC.”
Innovative Outcomes and Impacts
The CHC Strategic Action Plan incorporated feedback from the breakfast series. Six overarching goals accompanied by seventeen tangible objectives were developed.
The CHC has undertaken all but one of these objectives either through direct action or through partnerships.
Various task teams are working on achieving their goals, such as the Housing First Task Team, Community Connections Task Team, and Mental Health Awareness Task Team. In addition to these task teams, the CHC collaborates with partners on five other projects that align with the CHC Strategic Action Plan.
Another result of the form series are the monthly Information and Networking Breakfasts. “One of the things we constantly heard from people at the forums was, ‘what are others doing?’ There was a real appetite to know more about what’s available in this community,” remembered Mendez. Transparency of services and events is a key goal of the CHC. These events help in make face-to-face connections.
“Tangible partnerships help in becoming more efficient with resources and you start filling in those gaps where we have unmet needs,” explained Mendez, “That’s the very special thing about something like CHC; [we’re] that center point for people to start to meet and get to know each other and make things happen.”
These networking events have increased interest in the group’s work, as a result over the past year the CHC partnership has nearly doubled in number.
With the priority actions established and the CHC partnership formalized, CHC has been able to address the complex root issues that impact their residents. CHC recognizes the benefits of promotion and prevention while acting at the intervention end of the continuum as well, all toward building a healthier community.
Coordinator for Chilliwack Healthier Community
City of Chilliwack
Manager of Long Range Planning
Planning & Strategic Initiatives