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City, Port, hospital, school board joint effort makes stride in planning stages

Pooling resources and ideas may just be what Sunnyside needs to get its issues under wraps.

Last night, Thursday, Sunnyside leaders from the city council, school board, local hospital, the Port of Sunnyside and others met at Bon Vino's Bistro and Bakery to discuss a plan to work together. The idea is to tackle many of the city's needs and issues from all possible angles.

"Drugs, alcohol, gangs, health, you can't separate these issues," Sunnyside School District Superintendent Rick Cole said.

Representatives from the Sunnyside School Board, Sunnyside City Council and Sunnyside Community Hospital have been meeting for several weeks to discuss how the agencies can partner together to tackle issues that they've received grants for.

Last night's meeting was attended in great numbers, with nearly 20 in attendance from four city and organizational entities claiming they are on the same page.

The goal for his community collaboration is that the City of Sunnyside, Sunnyside School District, Sunnyside Community Hospital and Port of Sunnyside each will designate two conveners to oversee this collaboration of efforts to help the health, welfare and wellbeing of the city they serve.

Working with the core conveners will be a technical support team, a community advisory team and a project coordinator.

The advisory team would include individuals from faith-based organizations, businesses, law enforcement, healthcare, youth services, civic organizations, government, parents, youth media, schools, behavioral health professionals and young adults.

The framework for the upcoming project is that the teams and coordinator will work to organize projects and services that help aid in the city's issues, including drug and alcohol abuse, youth gangs and health.

The group will organize and assemble workgroups to go after drug and alcohol prevention, gang intervention and suppression and work to provide a student health center.

Treatment, intervention and aftercare for drug and alcohol abusers locally will be on tap to provide the necessary treatment and counseling needed to make progress in this area. A health center will also work to provide services to students, including primary health, behavioral health treatment and dental health.

The workgroup going after youth gangs in the city will work on avenues of prevention, intervention and suppression.

Dr. Cole says the group of conveners is hoping to hire a project coordinator within the coming weeks, and get the project in forward movement.

Each involved entity has allocated funds to tackle the same issues: gangs, drugs and alcohol and health. The four groups have expressed a desire to work together, collaborating ideas and funds from various grants and allocations, including projects like the Gang Free Initiative and Title V funding.

"So we don't have three different workgroups trying to solve the same issue separately," said Port Commissioner Jeff Matson.

Now that the four entities have showed an interest in the project, they will return to their respective boards or councils to bring the topic up for discussion and to formally declare their participation and dedication to this collaboration.

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