Denise Gagnon (left), executive director and Lena Rothwell, program coordinator of Skeena Heartbeat Society. (Supplied photo)

Denise Gagnon (left), executive director and Lena Rothwell, program coordinator of Skeena Heartbeat Society. (Supplied photo)

Newly minted Skeena Heartbeat Society to work on Terrace’s social issues

The organization begins with first phase of data collection sponsored by Rio Tinto

Skeena Heartbeat Society (SHS), a newly minted non-profit in Terrace, moves forward with its first phase to provide “solutions” for the city’s social issues.

With a $35,000 contribution from Rio Tinto, the organization said it has begun the legwork on its planned projects for 2022. Those include data collection to ensure people experiencing homelessness, drug or alcohol addiction, or mental health issues get the help they need.

In an email statement the aluminium giant, which runs a smelter in Kitimat, said they were proud to partner with SHS in northern BC.

“Better understanding these social issues is the first step towards making our community safer and healthier,” said Claudine Gagnon, general manager communities & communication for Rio Tinto Aluminium.

Following data collection, SHS will partner with Dr. Jennifer Mervyn, a psychologist renowned for her work with Indigenous youth and mental health, said Denise Gagnon, the organization’s executive director.

Last month, Mervyn, along with other community leaders from the Lower Mainland interacted with stakeholders from Terrace in a town hall meeting organized by Skeena BC Liberal MLA Ellis Ross.

Some of the speakers at the ‘Terrace Streets’ meeting held on Nov. 26 included Ghalib Bhayani, the architect and co-chair of the Surrey Mobilization and Resiliency Table (SMART); Tom Littlewood, program director for Dan’s Legacy who developed one of the first diversion programs for at-risk youths while working as a police counsellor; and Chad Cowles, manager of LEAD Maple Ridge, a community social safety initiative (CSSI) for which Maple Ridge is the demonstration city.

READ MORE: Skeena BC Liberal MLA to hold solution-oriented meeting for Terrace’s social issues

SHS is looking at creating a “community voice movement” by engaging Terrace residents to help create practical solutions to dealing with homelessness, addictions, crime and other social issues.

The organization is not looking at “reinventing the wheel,” said Denise, adding that the society will be working with the social service agencies in Terrace and Linda Stevens, the city’s newly hired social development program coordinator.

In the coming months, SHS will be setting up an online engagement platform for community members to participate.

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