Cota, South Riverdale Community Health Centre and Gerstein Crisis Centre were among more than 10 organizations that participated in the Taylor-Massey Community Wellness Event.
More than 400 students, families and local residents stayed well past the 3 p.m. bell at Crescent Town Elementary School on November 29, 2022 where they had the opportunity to participate in a different kind of knowledge sharing: learning about the diverse health and wellness services available in Taylor-Massey and where to find them.
Organized by East Toronto Health Partners (ETHP), the Ontario Health Team (OHT) serving East Toronto in collaboration with other partners, the Taylor-Massey Community Wellness Event featured more than a dozen booths where attendees could talk to health, social services and community care providers to learn about mental health counselling, substance use services, harm reduction and more.
For many, it was the first time in more than two years that Taylor-Massey residents were able to gather and connect in-person in one space.
The event also gave students and families the opportunity to share feedback on how local health and wellness services could be improved.
Food, prizes and a bivalent COVID-19 vaccine booth were part of the attractions, too.
Opportunity to learn about local health and wellness services
Keith D’Silva was one of the hundreds of local residents who visited the Taylor-Massey Community Wellness Event that evening.
A trained counsellor who’s lived in Crescent Town for almost a decade, he says he decided to go to the event to learn more about the different services in the area and to look for opportunities where he could help support the community.
“I wasn’t sure what services are available and what the community needs,” Keith says.
“This was a great way to meet new people and easily see what’s out there.”
Community health ambassadors key to success of event
Community health ambassadors from the neighbourhood also attended the event and helped promote it beforehand.
These are individuals who live in the community and assist with health promotion and education by conducting culturally competent and language-specific outreach and engagement.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, community health ambassadors were key in helping to build vaccine confidence and sharing information about how people can get themselves and their loved ones safe.
Now, community health ambassadors like Sayeeda Chowdhury are working to ensure local residents know of the health, social and community services that are available to them close to home.
Sayeeda says she was motivated to join WoodGreen Community Services’ team of community health ambassadors as a way to pay it forward.
She says two years ago, when she arrived in Canada from Bangladesh, organizations like WoodGreen and TNO – The Neighbourhood Organization were incredibly helpful in connecting her family with different resources, like where to get health services.
“Taylor-Massey is a neighbourhood where there is a high influx of people who are new to Canada and they want to know where to get different help, services and resources in the country,” Sayeeda says.
“Since I got help from this community, now I want to help others.”
Resources shared in ‘culturally sensitive’ way
The purpose of the Taylor-Massey Community Wellness Event was to create a safe space for local residents to participate in conversations around mental wellness and learn more about health and wellness services in Taylor-Massey.
Data from the Ontario Ministry of Health indicates many residents who go to Michael Garron Hospital’s Emergency Department with mental health-related concerns come from Taylor-Massey area.
Many of people in this neighbourhood also face barriers to care, such as language and technology barriers and challenges navigating the healthcare system.
“We weren’t able to have many in-person community events through the pandemic. This event allowed people to get together in a welcoming, familiar environment – one that’s not intimidating – and pick up resources that may be beneficial to them,” says Irina Sytcheva, Director of Mental Health, Addictions and Developmental Services in the Community Care Unit at WoodGreen, the event’s sponsor.
The event also helped promote local health and wellness services and allowed residents to get information they may need in a “culturally sensitive and accessible” way, adds Sanaa Jeraj, Manager of the Counselling and Supports Services at WoodGreen.
Feedback from event to help improve local services
Irina is part of ETHP’s Adult Mental Health Working Group, a group of healthcare leaders and service providers from a various ETHP member organizations that meet regularly to plan and implement initiatives that help improve the mental health services in East Toronto.
The group hopes to use the feedback gathered at the Taylor-Massey Community Wellness Event to develop, adapt and deliver programs and services that make it easier for people to find and get care in the community.
“The feedback from the communities and the people we serve is absolutely invaluable to inform us on how we can best support their mental health and substance use needs and concerns,” Irina says.
“We look forward to reviewing their insights and following up with local residents as needed. This will allow us to continue engaging community members so we can work together to ensure our mental health services work best for those in and around Taylor-Massey.
“We’re so grateful for our partners and their dedication to this important work, and the willingness of Taylor-Massey residents to share their experiences and take part in this journey,” Irina adds.
In addition to WoodGreen, the following ETHP member organizations participated in the Taylor-Massey Community Wellness Event:
- Access Alliance Multicultural Health and Community Services
- Alternatives East York Mental Health Counselling Services Agency
- A-Way Express
- Comprehensive Treatment Clinic
- East Effort: Community COVID Response Project
- Gerstein Crisis Centre
- Health Access Taylor-Massey
- Michael Garron Hospital, including the Mobile Crisis Intervention Team and Transitional Youth Program
- South Riverdale Community Health Centre
- Street Haven
- The Neighborhood Group Community Services
- TNO – The Neighborhood Organization
Crescent Town Elementary School, the Crescent Town School Council and ETHP’s Taylor-Massey Residents Wellness Council supported the event.