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FORWARD HOUSE COMMUNITY SOCIETY: a brief history

 

 In 1982, FORWARD HOUSE was established as a crisis line for clients of Alcohol and Drug Programs, later to provide a meeting one day per week at District 69 Society of Organized Services (S.O.S.) for social support.

In 1984, referrals to FORWARD HOUSE came from a variety of sources including doctors, churches, and senior peer counseling programs. The group continued to meet weekly and consisted largely of community elders.

In 1990, Mental Health Services in Parksville indicated a new impetus for services for mental health clients, as there weren’t any non-government mental health programs in District 69 at that time. All new referrals were accepted only from Mental Health Services in Parksville. All funding stemmed from the Ministry of Health in Victoria.

From 1990 – 1992, FORWARD HOUSE members continued to meet weekly. The program consisted of a “check-in” and various exercises and discussions on group dynamics and self esteem, followed by lunch, and a community outing. There were two volunteers and two paid part-time staff members.

From 1992 –1994, the FORWARD HOUSE Program Director provided outreach services to the members on the days program participants did not meet. This was done in conjunction with the Adult and Elderly Services Coordinator at the Parksville Mental Health office.

In 1994, Mental Health Services queried program expansion. The Program Director researched existing programs across Vancouver Island to determine what was working and why. Members were surveyed to determine their needs, as well as gaps in existing services. Emphasis was placed on making the program community-specific, based on the needs of those individuals we serve and the demographics, the socio-economic and political climates, and available resources in our own community. Also in 1994, Mental Health Services developed an outreach (Supported Independent Living) program and crisis intervention service. The inception of the Urgent Response Team for more assertive crisis management and hospital liaison shortly followed. Thus, FORWARD HOUSE’s primary purpose was to become an in-house program with clinical liaison aspects intact.

In April 1995, FORWARD HOUSE opened its doors for a seven-day, two evening per week psychosocial rehabilitation program. Paid staff increased to four members, and the membership increased to 35 client partners. In 1997, we moved to slightly larger premises, still in the downtown core with ready access to services. Our clientele reached 50 in number. In the same year, governance was assumed by the newly formed Regional Health Board, which directed the funding.

In 1998, paid staffing increased to five persons, all part-time. A wait list was in effect, although wait-listed partners were invited to weekly visiting days to establish professional and peer supports. Also in 1998, a committee was formed to develop stand-alone society status for FORWARD HOUSE.

FORWARD HOUSE COMMUNITY SOCIETY incorporated in March, 2001, and earned charity status in the same year. The newly formed Central Vancouver Island Health Region Board assumed governance and funding allocation. In 2002, this governing body became known as the Vancouver Island Health Authority. In April of the same year, FORWARD HOUSE COMMUNITY SOCIETY (FHCS) took on administration of a comprehensive vocational rehabilitation aspect.

Forward House

 

At the beginning of 2014, Forward House Community Society moved into a new house at 136 East Hirst Avenue, Parksville.

Today, FHCS is more than 75 members strong, and growing. We have 8 staff members, several volunteers, practicum students, a volunteer Board of Directors, and many community partners who help us serve up to 50 clients at a time.

We are currently introducing many new psychosocial rehabilitation programs and expanding others. We offer programs involving education (book club, poetry club and FH University), expressive therapies (music, arts, crafts and yoga), and recreational activities (walking, playing games and visiting community attractions), and we recently purchased a used van to allow us to take more clients on fun and educational outings in Parksville and its surrounding communities. FHCS still offers a variety of vocational rehabilitation opportunities as well.

FHCS is dedicated to the ideals of community and the embracing of like-minded, like-spirited people in common purpose. Inherent in every community is diversity of age, gender, lifestyle, ethnicity, history, skills, abilities and degree of wellness. FHCS is no exception. In practical terms, we promote the use of skills and ideas toward optimal wellness, each of us in partnership with the other. Each partner is free to pursue his or her individual well-being – self esteem, self-empowerment, and self-actualization – within the communal whole, in turn strengthening the community itself.

FHCS strives to be proactive in our approach to individual and community mental health by providing programs and services to develop skills, and enhance socialization and partnership with the community, thus minimizing crises and maximizing personal responsibility and normalization of relationship with community. We acknowledge that substance use issues co-exist with many partners, and our programs reflect this truth.

FHCS remains the sole contracted mental health rehabilitation service in District 69. We embrace the challenges of a dynamic economic and political climate with optimism, and we are grateful for the strong community support for our programs and initiatives.