The Collective Impact Network (CIN) is a Provincial Health Services Authority (PHSA) sponsored initiative, being co-led by PAN acting as the backbone. It consists of the seven PHSA-contracted agencies that are supporting the community-based response to HIV and HCV, alongside the PHSA, and including the BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) and BC Women’s Hospital.
The goal of the CIN is to facilitate collaboration on priority areas that will best support people living with HIV and HCV and the frontline organizations that serve them. As new agencies join us, we will feature them, and what they bring to the CIN… so you can get to know them, hear some stories and meet the people!
Options for Sexual Health
Michelle Fortin, Executive Director
Based in British Columbia, Options for Sexual Health (or “OSH”) is Canada’s largest non-profit provider of sexual health services through our clinics, education programs, and the 1-800-SEX-SENSE information and referral line. We truly embrace our mission to champion and celebrate sexual health, and achieve this by providing accessible, non-judgmental sexual health care to clients seeking to improve their sexual health and wellness. OSH’s sexual and reproductive health clinics offer birth control counselling, low cost contraceptives, sexually transmitted infection (STI) and Pap testing, pregnancy testing, pro-choice pregnancy Options counselling, and the most up to date sexual health information. Callers to our 1-800-SEX-SENSE line receive unbiased, research-based information from our well-trained, professional staff and are able to find answers to their most pressing sexual health questions. OSH also delivers comprehensive sexual health education in BC’s public and independent schools, and offers a number of training programs for professionals who are seeking to develop or improve their capacity to provide excellent sexual health support for their clients. Remarkably, our web based and phone in services alone serve 450,000 individuals annually.
Personally, what led you into taking on your role?
I am new-ish to my role at Options for Sexual Health (OSH), arriving in June of 2017 from a 20 year career with a youth and family substance use and mental health organization. I had actually been looking to ‘get out of the way’ for young leaders in the organization to step into leadership and was waiting for an opportunity that intrigued me. I was drawn to OSH for a number of reasons; the level of professionalism within the organization, their stellar reputation (directly from friend’s young adults who used the services), the provincial mandate and the commitment to a feminist and social justice approach. The organization and role within it, just seemed to be the right fit.
Can you tell a story that excites you about the impact your work is having?
I am most excited and proud about the inroads that Options for Sexual Health is making with unusual partners to deliver clinic time in high schools in four small communities. Working with concerned parents, nurses, teachers and physicians we have found ways to enrich services to young people at a time when their patterns of sexual expression are being formed. Creating the space for them to access contraception where they are and normalize conversations about sex, intimacy and consent let’s young people know early on that these things are part of general, effective health.
What is the unique value that your agency brings to the Collective Impact Network (CIN) and its priority areas?
In terms of what unique value Options for Sexual Health brings to the Collective Impact Network it is probably three specific things. The first is our network of 60 sexual and reproductive health clinics across the province. Our clinics are predominantly nurse led and are embedded in the community. In most of the clinics, services are delivered in the evening and the spaces are supported by local volunteers. In some communities, like Kaslo, we are the only form of drop-in care in the area. The second piece is our extensive work with women. While we work with anyone who walks through the door (24,000 in 17/18), 85% of the folks we work with identify as women and another 1% as non-binary. We see this perspective as having value at the table. The last is the depth of knowledge and capacity to deliver training through our Sex Sense team as well as our Education team. We see our ability to leverage these other components of our organization to do the work as being very valuable.
So far, what have you learnt – or how has your work been enhanced – by being a part of the network?
While it’s early days for Options for Sexual Health at CIN, we have already benefited with a strengthening of ties to the broader sector and organizations like YouthCo and HIM and AV. Even though HIV/HCV are part of the sexual health world, they have been quite separate from our work, despite the fact that we offer testing at all of our clinics. We are excited to participate in the collaborative work and have landed on supporting the work on Stigma and How to ensure there is equity around access to services across the province.
How can (and why should) readers get involved with your agency?
The breadth and value of our work can be seen on our website. This is also where you find all our career and volunteer opportunities, as well as how you can donate to us. Please look around and get to know us.
Questions? Feedback? Get in touch!
Simon Goff, Executive Assistant and Collective Impact Coordinator, [email protected]