October 23rd, 2017

Vital Signs takes pulse of city, area well-being


By Villeneuve, Melissa on October 6, 2017.

Executive director Charleen Davidson speaks at an event Thursday as the Community Foundation of Lethbridge and Southwestern Alberta released their annual Vital Signs community report. Herald photo by Ian Martens @IMartensHerald

Melissa Villeneuve

Lethbridge Herald

mvilleneuve@lethbridgeherald.com

The Community Foundation of Lethbridge and Southwestern Alberta released their fifth annual Vital Signs community report on Thursday.

Vital Signs is a snapshot of southwestern Alberta’s vitality and well-being. The report collects local data and knowledge on a wide range of topics within six areas: Community Connections, Environment, Lifelong Learning, Living Standards, Healthy Communities and Cultural Life.

Vital Signs “takes the pulse of our region and expands awareness of current issues,” providing the foundation and the community with an idea of how organizations are responding these issues and how they can help.

Vital Signs is an initiative of the Community Foundations of Canada, and Foundations across the country create their local publications.

“What’s unique about it is that in most communities the foundations are the only ones doing this work,” said Charleen Davidson, Community Foundation executive director. “And what Vital Signs does is it shows us areas of need.”

The Community Foundation’s Community Priorities grant program is now aligned with Vital Signs. Applicants must now indicate which of the six impact areas their projects will address and how the outcomes will improve quality of life.

It also helps inform their donors which areas need the most support.

“One of the great things about Vital Signs is it does use local data,” said Davidson. “We will use provincial or national data, but we really want to know what’s going on in our community because this is where we live.”

Key issues in this year’s report include an eye on the opioid crisis. From 2011 to 2016, the number of fentanyl-related deaths in Alberta increased by 6,000 per cent. In the South Zone, Alberta Health Services recorded 17 fentanyl overdose deaths in 2016. Ten of those deaths occurred in Lethbridge, said Davidson.

“That’s one of the big ones, but there are also positives. There are some great things going on in our cultural community with the Allied Arts Council… there are lots of different theatre groups doing great work in rural communities and in Lethbridge.”

Another topic covered in Vital Signs focuses on homelessness in rural communities and the lack of services available.

According to the report, a 2015 survey found that Fort Macleod has few appropriate rental properties for families. Forty-seven residents identified as homeless or at-risk. More than 87 per cent identified as victims of intimate partner violence and two-thirds were suffering from mental or physical health issues. Almost 30 per cent had children.

Through the hiring of a housing liaison worker, the Fort Macleod Family and Community Support Services has been able to house 179 people, including children.

The full report is available online at http://www.cflsa.ca.

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