Thursday, 21 June 2018 06:54

Survey identifies community needs in southwest Saskatchewan

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Focus group participants discuss priority issues. Focus group participants discuss priority issues. Photo courtesy of Southwest RIC

A needs assessment of Southwest Saskatchewan residents has identified some key priorities in relation to mental health, wellness, housing, prevention initiatives and social supports.

The 2018 southwest community needs assessment was sponsored by the Southwest Regional Intersectoral Committee (RIC).
“The whole purpose was to bring awareness and to just bring that collaborative common focus and transparency and to be able to start to create some dialogue around what people are seeing as what’s important to them and what they want to see to continue to carry on,” Southwest RIC co-chair Stacey Schwartz said.
The current members of the committee are from the Chinook School Division, Great Plains College, Holy Trinity Catholic School Division, Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Social Services, the RCMP (city and rural detachments), Saskatchewan Health Authority, and Swift Current United Way.
The purpose of a community needs assessment is to develop a better understanding of the needs that exist within communities.
An assessment is useful because it identifies the existing assets and resources that are available as well as gaps or barriers that make it difficult to address priorities.
The needs assessment survey took place from April 13-30. The survey was available online and hard copies were also distributed through community agencies.
It took about five minutes to complete and 477 southwest Saskatchewan residents participated in the survey, of which 284 were adults and 108 were youth between the ages of 11 and 19 years. The majority of respondents (70 per cent) were female. Seventy per cent of the individuals who completed the survey are from Swift Current.
Efforts were made to ensure the survey is inclusive, but various factors might have influenced participation, for example the time period that the survey was available and the way it was distributed.
“With every survey there are limitations and that’s something that needs to be taken into consideration,” she said. “Any data, when you’re collecting it, all really depends on who is sharing it and how it is being distributed. So if there are different entities that are sharing it on their Facebook page and doing more promotion than other entities, that’s going to sway some of the information coming in.”
The Southwest RIC also hosted two focus groups to get feedback from agencies and organizations in the human services sector about the strengths and weaknesses of services and programs that are provided across southwest Saskatchewan. The two focus groups were attended by 85 people.
For Schwartz a notable aspect of the entire survey is the different priorities that were identified by adults, youth and the focus groups.
“Some of the things that were maybe number one for the focus groups weren’t even necessary on the top 10 for the community,” she said. “So that’s something as a whole to recognize that there might be different perspectives.”
For example, the top priority for the focus groups was access to services, but it was only the seventh most import priority for adult respondents and it was not on the list of top 10 priorities for youth.
Housing was the most important priority for youth and it was the fifth most important issue for adults, but only the eighth most important priority for focus groups.
Specialty services was the top priority from the adult survey, but it was not a top 10 priority for youth or the focus groups.
The overall top five priorities in the community needs assessment are the issues that were identified by adults, youth and focus groups participants as the most important to them.
Mental health was identified by 89 per cent of respondents as important or very important. Access to mental health services, the availability of resources and trained professionals in their community, and the need for a detox or rehabilitation facility were seen as priority issues.
Wellness initiatives were seen as important or very important by 89 per cent of respondents. It was felt there is a need for more healthy forms of entertainment and people are looking for wellness options that do not require participation in structured sport and activity.
A greater need for a focus on prevention-based initiatives instead of reactive services were seen as important or very important by 88 per cent of respondents. They identified a need for increased access to education about substance abuse and anti-bullying.
Housing was identified by 83 per cent of respondents as important or very important. They felt there is a need for access to safe emergency/interim housing options for youth of any gender, while a temporary men’s shelter as well as a temporary shelter for 17 to 18-year-old women were seen as important gaps.
Both adult and youth respondents emphasized the need for a permanent funding commitment for Dorie’s House that will allow this emergency youth shelter to re-open.
An enhanced focus on social supports was considered important or very important by 64 per cent of respondents. There were comments about a need for a community leisure centre and a safe place for youth to interact, concern was expressed about anxiety in children, and the need for programs and youth activities that will assist youth to interact in social situations.
Schwartz believes the results from the community needs assessment will be useful to both the community and to organizations in the human services sector. The Southwest RIC will be encouraging efforts in the community to respond to these needs and issues that were highlighted by survey respondents.
“We had different individuals who said they want to be part of the bigger conversation or action once we finalized the survey,” she said. “So we’ve reached out to those different individuals around the core group to start having some of those discussions of what those next steps could be and who else should be coming in on the conversation and whether they have assets or if it is in their mandate within some of these priority areas.”

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Matthew Liebenberg


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