When Darren Childs, 60, first visited RISE Community Health Centre, he says he was “scared to death of medicine.” With cerebral palsy, diabetes and other health challenges, he says he had no interest in the healthcare system because previous practitioners would give him medications that made him sick. A year after his first visit to RISE, which is operated by Collingwood Neighbourhood House (CNH), he now has a different view of medical care.
“The important part is giving people the freedom to feel who they are,” says Darren. “It’s not just that my lungs hurt or my legs hurt, it’s the idea that RISE and its medical team have hooked me up with the right people that match my personality as well.”
While Darren says he can’t speak for everybody, he says the staff at RISE and their willingness to answer his questions and be transparent with him has made all the difference. Living with both a disability and in poverty, Darren says he is often expected to meet the needs of the system but what he really desires is for the system to meet his needs.
At RISE, he has found a system that he describes as “wonderful.” Since joining RISE, Darren has a team of medical professionals working with him, including social workers, dietitians, nurses, pharmacists and nurse practitioners.
“At one point, [RISE] assembled all the people that were meeting with me,” says Darren. “There were 10 people that met with me on a regular basis and we had a roundtable meeting so I could find out what everybody’s job was and how I was going to get help.”
Having his needs met beyond basic medical care has been “the biggest gift that RISE offers,” explains Darren. “It’s the ability to go back into a community and embrace the needs of not just one patient or 10 patients or all the patients but indeed, the community.”
Further, he says RISE staff have helped connect him to other CNH programs and services that support his mental and physical well-being. Darren receives produce from the food hub program and has received additional support from staff when the batteries died in his wheelchair, making it impossible for him to leave his apartment. Additionally, he actively participates in social prescribing, which bridges health and social services for seniors and older adults in the Renfrew-Collingwood neighbourhood. Darren says he’s built new relationships through this program and discovered new goals.
Today, Darren says he no longer feels alone and his overall quality of life and well-being has improved. His perspective on medicine has changed so much that he was also asked to, and is considering, joining RISE’s advisory board.
“If [RISE] knows that the community has a need, then they try to fix that need,” says Darren.
This story was originally written for our 2023 Annual Report, which highlights the experiences of program participants, volunteers and community members at CNH. For more information about services provided by RISE Community Health Centre, visit www.cnh.bc.ca/rise or call 604-558-8090.