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Top Stories of 2011: Contact centre dream still burns brightly

It’s been a huge year for those waiting for the Chilliwack Health Contact Centre project to come to fruition.

An offer to purchase a property  on Young Road was inked by the province in January, and it was rezoned in March.

“This is a chance for Chilliwack to show the rest of the Lower Mainland how to do it right,” said PCRS addictions manager Lee Anne Hanson the night of the rezoning hearing at city hall.

Project proponents include operator Pacific Community Resources Society, BC Housing, and Fraser Health, as well as City of Chilliwack, who have all been hammering away at the plan for a supported housing project for several years.

The vision is to establish a 24-unit residential facility with “wrap-around” services for those with mental health issues and addictions, but also walk-in health care services for “patient orphans,” who are people without a family doctor.

The idea all along has focused on a continuum of services available under one roof, from housing services to some form of medical care to court advocacy, employment and rental assistance programs.

The location is a former Days Inn Motel on Young Road at Hocking. Denis Turco Architect Inc. of Vancouver designed the addition and building alterations, and Mierau Contracting of Abbotsford will be doing the construction.

Update: Ground-breaking on the project should be early in the new year and they expect to be in the building by next fall.

There’s a hitch, however. Although the project has been supported by the province to the tune of $3.3 million to date for capital funding, as of last week, there wasn’t enough contact centre operating funds to hire the staff needed to realize the lofty goals they’ve set out.

“My hope is that BC Housing or Fraser Health is still going to come to the table on this,” Hanson said.

“A building without services is just a tenancy arrangement, but a building with services creates a community home environment.”

They’ll need an estimated $500,000 to offer what they’ve been promising, she said. So at this point they are not in a position to offer around-the-clock supervision or services outside of business hours.

“Our biggest fear is not being able to fully realize the vision.

“Everyone is expecting this to solve some of our problems, so we need more operating dollars to provide the best service we can for people who really need our help.”

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