New approach to community wellness now underway

New approach to community wellness now underway
Posted on 03/11/2022

At its last Board meeting, Clearview’s trustees learned about an innovative and collaborative approach that the community of Bashaw developed in 2017 and implemented successfully,  resulting in significant impacts to community wellness. The Board also learned that a similar approach is being developed in Stettler and the County of Stettler and is excited about the potential impacts for families and children.

Guy Neitz, Clearview Board Chair, says, “The Board appreciated hearing about the Bashaw Wellness Committee model and their success in helping families access and navigate community resources. Clearview supports the work being done to implement this model of collaboration and support in our community.”

Bashaw's approach to community wellness resulted in:

  • A 47% reduction in persons crime, a 37% reduction in property crime, and a 40% reduction in other criminal code crime
  • A reduction from 37 youth charged with crimes in 2016 to zero charges in youth crime in 2019
  • Gains in literacy learning at school
  • Cost savings for agencies
  • Reduction in staff burn out across all agencies
  • Families moving to Bashaw
  • 160 at-risk families and children served and connected to programs and services 
  • Support services offered in the community (with a population of 840): family wellness worker, foundation learning and literacy, food bank, meals on wheels, senior supports, information and referral, family and youth programming, mental health and addictions, employability services, home support, English language learning, healthy families home visitation, daycare and preschool, post-secondary education and technology supports 
  • A study showed that for each dollar spent, the social value to the community provides at least $10 in benefits

The results came because the Bashaw Community Wellness team, which includes the RCMP, Bashaw School, Adult Learning and social program representatives, worked collaboratively and in an integrated manner, rather than operating in isolation.  

Jackie Northey, Executive Director of Bashaw Adult Learning, says, “Alberta is resource rich, but collaborative poor.” Northey says that Bashaw, through the new approach, chose to “design its future and invent ways to bring it about. Through a mindset shift, the Bashaw community understood that ‘building a better yesterday’ was not going to move the community past the current challenges experienced by all rural communities. We knew it would require a different approach – a new look at the possibilities.” 

Myranda Shepherd, the current Principal of Wm. E. Hay Stettler Secondary Campus was the Principal of Bashaw School when the new approach developed. She says having the school as a key member of the collaborative work was important. “A significant amount of a child's life is spent in the school system. In addition to that, schools are often the contact point for families for a number of reasons. We have the great fortune of being a hub for our community - and therefore, we have an important role to play in being the advocates of our community, the navigators of our organizations and the first point of contact for many of the new families who come to town.”

Like Shepherd, Stettler RCMP S/Sgt. Bruce Holliday was serving in Bashaw when the community began its work on wellness. He was pleased with the results of the collaborative work. Holliday says, “This is community policing philosophy in action. Engaging community partners in serving our community members allows the RCMP to focus resources on traditional policing with the ultimate goal of prevention and reduction of crime, making our community a safer place to live.”

“Circle of Services” brings this work to Stettler and County of Stettler

Holliday and Shepherd, now employed in Stettler, are working along with a number of other individuals with the goal of establishing a collaborative and integrated approach in Stettler and in The County of Stettler. The Stettler group is called: “Circle of Services”, and includes Stettler Elementary School, Wm. E. Hay Stettler Secondary Campus, the RCMP and other agencies for a total of 32 organizations. According to Shepherd, the group has developed terms-of-reference describing how agencies will work with each other to serve the community. “We are engaged as a team and the collaborative mindset is there,” says Shepherd. “We are well on our way.”
Shepherd sees the work as essential for a strong future and says, “The role of schools has become increasingly more complex. We do understand that students can not learn if they are not in a safe place physically, mentally or emotionally. Therefore, the work of community wellness is vital - it takes a village to raise a child and it takes collaboration and, in this day and age, leveraging resources among organizations, to be able to create meaningful and lasting change for students and their families. I am grateful to the service organizations in the community of Stettler for coming together and working in partnership and look forward to continuing this work in the months and years to come.”

The Bashaw Community Wellness Team is excited to see this work unfolding in Stettler, and hopes it spreads throughout rural Alberta. “We believe that this model is a proven, evidence-based model for rural community wellness and sustainability,” says Northey. “It is our hope that as rural communities begin to implement the model in their own communities, that we will come together as rural communities to collaborate and develop what we need. In essence, we should be able to duplicate the model regionally with regional collaboration to serve our individuals, seniors and families.”