By Shannon Rapose
Kern Valley Sun
On Thursday, June 7, community members from all around the Kern River Valley walked into the Senior Center in Lake Isabella for an advertised community meeting that had asked two questions of residents: Do you feel safe in your neighborhood? Do you want to see a positive change in the Kern River Valley?
Cindy Filkosky from the Kern River Valley Family Resource Center (FRC) began by explaining that the meeting would be based around community-driven feedback that will aid the Kern River Valley Community Based Environment Risk Reduction (CBERR) Coalition efforts to help keep the community safe and healthy.
“We aren’t looking for another Band-Aid fix,” said Filkosky. “We are looking to get into the root of the problem and create a plan that will actually make a difference and be sustainable.”
She also stated that the CBERR grant allows for multiple agencies within a community to come together in order to identify and reduce environmental risks to help protect and improve the health, and, therefore, the quality of life of its members. The FRC, Kern Valley Hospital (KVHD) and the Kern County Sheriff’s Office (KCSO) are just a few of the agencies that are on board so far.
With the CBERR grant focusing mainly on youth access to drugs and alcohol within a community, data will need to be collected in order to identify areas of concern. Filkosky also acknowledged that the Kern River Valley has additional issues that need to be addressed, but this is just a starting point that will allow for other avenues of funding and support.
“It’s a win-win all the way around, and we have had a lot of support right now from everyone in the community,” she said. “It feels like something [the community] is ready for and on board for.”
Lisa Wyly from Kern Valley Healthcare District also praised the project and the involvement of Transforming Local Communities Inc. and Kern Behavioral Health and Recovery Services that are lending their support to the Kern River Valley community as it starts this journey.
“I am excited to actually see something come to our valley where a solution and action is the focus,” said Wyly. “It is going to take every community in this valley to make change.”
Wyly also thanked those in attendance for coming and expressed her excitement on working with those who want to be part of the solution and bring forth positive change in the community.
“There are issues that our community faces, so let’s do something about it,” said Wyly.
The next speaker to address the crowd was Albert Melena with Prevention by Design, who discussed the first step of the CBERR process, which involves collecting the community-driven data that helps identify what problems are impacting the community the most and where the incidents are happening. The next step then involves building up the community’s participation and knowledge, while the third step would be developing a plan of action on priority issues that plague the community.
“We’re all in this together,” said Melena. “Our community affects everybody.”
Attendees were then asked to split off into small groups and visit each map around the room. To help identify areas of concern on the community maps, attendees were given colorful dots to place in “problem” areas where incidents occur but were asked to refrain from using specific addresses and names.
For nearly an hour, attendees placed dot after dot, highlighting areas around the community or filled out smaller maps giving more specific details that they didn’t feel comfortable sharing on a larger scale. By the end of the meeting, most felt excited about the prospect of change that might be on the horizon, promising to bring more people that would want to be involved, which forced a location change due to the outpour of support.
When Kern River Valley resident Nicole Long was asked if she thought this meeting will be affective, she stated that she was excited to see that more people felt the same way she did about wanting positive change in the community and has hope that with the outside support, coupled with local participation, that things could move in a more positive direction.
“I think we can really go somewhere with it,” said Long. “But that can only happen if the community wants to change.”
The next scheduled meeting for the Kern River Valley CBERR Coalition will be held on Wednesday, June 27, from 5:00-6:30 p.m. in the Kern Valley Hospital Cafeteria in Mt. Mesa.
The next meeting is intended to collect more information from the community, and more meetings will follow to discuss possible solutions.
For more information, email Cindy Filkosky at firstname.lastname@example.org or Lisa Wyly at email@example.com.