Back in 2019, staff at Haldimand-Norfolk Health and Social Services thought they had mapped out a strategic plan to meet the housing, health-care and social service needs of residents in the two counties.
The department conducted a community needs survey — the first of its kind locally — and interviewed a wide cross-section of the populace to determine where there were gaps in service and what programs might fill them.
Affordable housing and mental-health and addictions counselling were among the major needs identified at that time.
Then COVID-19 struck, putting plans on hold and prompting the department to run the survey again this year to see whether the community’s needs have shifted in the wake of the pandemic.
The survey is now live at hnhu.org/CNASurvey. Residents can opt to complete it over the phone, and paper copies are available at all library branches and health and social services buildings.
The survey will be open until July 31 and takes about 15 minutes to complete. All submissions are anonymous.
Hearing from a “robust number of voices” from across the community will give the department a better idea of residents’ concerns and how to address them, said Kate Bishop-Williams, an epidemiologist with the Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit and project lead for the community needs survey.
The survey gathers demographic information such as respondents’ education level, employment status and family makeup, and then delves into topics like their eating habits, housing situation, ability to access health care, and even how often they brush their teeth.
The 2019 survey found Haldimand-Norfolk ranked higher than the provincial per capita rates of suicide, excessive drinking, and hospitalization as a result of chronic disease, serious injury and opioid use.
Generational poverty, limited transportation options, a lack of recreational opportunities for youth and poor collaboration between social service agencies were also flagged as issues of concern.
Syed Shah, acting director for the Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit, encouraged residents to complete the survey and share their perspective.
“The assessment is like a GPS system guiding us on how to improve the health and wellness of all of Haldimand and Norfolk,” he said.
“But we need the community’s help in determining which direction to go.”
J.P. Antonacci, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Hamilton Spectator