Joy Bowen Eyre says the Alex Community Health Centre has an amazing story to tell and she’s up to the challenge of sharing it with Calgary.
Bowen Eyre, former Calgary Board of Education trustee and board chair, took over as CEO of the Alex in mid-January and has been overwhelmed to see the depth of services offered at the city non-profit.
“I would describe it as drinking from a fire hose,” she said.
No stranger to the non-profit social services sector, Bowen Eyre began her career in 1989 working evenings and weekends at a drug and alcohol treatment centre for women, putting herself through university.
After that, she spent 18 years at McMan Youth Family and Community Services before jumping into public education in 2010.
After leaving the CBE due to her father’s health, Bowen Eyre took on a position in government affairs at the United Way of Calgary and area.
“That was great work as it was a real great place for me to get back into the non-profit social sector and see what the current issues were, what people are excited about, where there’s funding gaps and to maintain relationships with government,” she said.
What attracted her to the opportunity at the Alex was the wraparound approach to delivering social services.
“Some non-profits offer a specific singular set of services. We look at health, not just health as physical, but health as emotional, mental, economic, as well as physical health,” she said.
“And that to me is what I’ve always believed in. If you can support the whole individual then there is better chance for successful outcomes down the road.”
Among the things Bowen-Eyre wants to tackle in her tenure at the Alex is ensuring they’re on solid financial footing. From there, it’s about getting the organization’s story out to the public.
She said most people wouldn’t know they have 271 staff, more than 50 doctors who work in clinics and on the Alex Dental Health bus, and they operate a full-service health centre and community food centre. Plus, there’s an army of volunteers who make their services possible.
“One of the exciting parts of the Alex is we save the taxpayer money. Millions of dollars every year. Because we’re about preventative and early intervention,” Bowen Eyre said.
“If we can get folks in the door and help them with their health, their dental, economic stability, emotional and mental health issues, if we can get them on early, we can support them and channel them to different supports and services they may need in the community. Which is way better than having folks end up in the ER or a call to 911.”
The upcoming provincial election is on the radar for Bowen Eyre as she wants to ensure all sides know the value of the Alex’s service in Calgary.
“There’s always a concern when we have a provincial election that there could be a change in government. So, it’s about telling the story, for not just those in government, but those who may form government,” she said.
Currently, 45 per cent of their funding comes from the Calgary Homeless Foundation, with 41 per cent coming from the Government of Alberta. The remaining is made up from other grants, donations and from other foundations.
“At the end of the day, we offer tremendous impact and cost savings from an economic standpoint,” Bowen Eyre said.