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Health-care leaders talk community
Engagement identified as a priority during meetings in Inuvik

Shawn Giilck
Northern News Services
Published Thursday, August 22, 2013

Community problems and projects were on the agenda as leaders of NWT health and social services organizations converged on Inuvik last week.

NNSL photo/graphic

Beaufort Delta Health and Social Services Executive Director Owen Partridge has his eyes on several community engagement projects. - Shawn Giilck/NNSL photo

The presidents and chief executive officers of the health authorities from around the NWT attended the meeting, as did Debbie DeLancey, the deputy minister of Health and Social Services.

While it was partly a brainstorming session, it was clear that while the note-comparing was going on persistent problems such as Inuvik's homeless population were on the radar as well.

The meeting was hosted by Owen Partridge, the new executive director of the Beaufort Delta Health and Socials Services Authority (BDHSSA).

"We get together every few months to discuss regional issues, problems and opportunities and places to make changes," Partridge said. "It's also a chance to find out what's going in other health authorities, because we're essentially autonomous."

Partridge said the BDHSSA is into the second year of a five-year plan.

"So we're identifying some concerns," he said. "I have a lot of priorities, I have a lot of changes that I'm interested in, but my particular interest is community engagement.

"We're trying to get away from silo management," he continued. "We've got to determine what the communities want. Part of the problem in the past is that one shoe doesn't fit every foot, so what may be a concern in one community may not be a concern in another."

Part of the path to accomplishing that, Partridge said, is to consult with the leadership in every community.

"We also have a responsibility to communicate some of the things we can't take care of," he said. "The dental program is an example. It comes under Health Canada, but when we go to a community people want to talk to us about it and see if we can solve the problem. Sometimes we can't."

Partridge said that within the next six months, he and his staff will travel to every community in the catchment area. It's important to give people a chance to vent, he added.

"One of the key focuses for me, though, is not to just leave it there," he said. "We have to at least try and do something about it, communicate back to what may be a concern."

Partridge said an overall program to address the rehabilitation of people caught in the Inuvik crackdown on public intoxication this summer is still unclear.

The health professionals attending the meeting were scheduled to tour the wellness camps operated by the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation and the Gwich'in Tribal Council, he said. That would give them some ideas on how to proceed.

DeLancey, though, said there has to be more emphasis on in-town programs and supports.

"In the North, our number one challenge, which I hear from every community I go to and every meeting I go, is addictions, particularly alcohol abuse. That's a huge challenge.

"So it's not an issue that's unique to Inuvik," she said. "In Yellowknife, they've established a day shelter program, which, while it is not without its own controversy, generally the community feels that there's been improvement, and a place for people to go. It's been a very positive step."

DeLancey said she supports the work that's being done toward Inuvik representatives coming up with a home-grown solution to the issue.

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