Twenty-five years ago two Clutha women hatched a plan to improve health services for the people in their community.
Pact Group is an organisation that operates around the country, providing support services for people living independently in the community who need help with living skills and goals.
Trish Pain and Kath Allan founded the Balclutha branch of Pact at 222 Clyde St in 1995.
Mrs Allan has since died.
‘‘There was a definite need, because there was nothing here for locals,” Mrs Pain said.
She said people who had intellectual disabilities or mental health issues previously had to travel to Dunedin for care.
“I had a family member in care . . .when people are unwell they don’t want to be distanced from their family, they want that support.”
The Clyde St property was an assisted living residence, and remains so to this day.
However, the main Pact operation moved to Crown St and became the Link Centre about 17 years ago, she said.
Perceptions of what the organisation was trying to achieve had changed over time.
“I think there is greater understanding now of what we do compared to 25 years ago.
“There was a lot of stigmatisation back then. I think there is still a bit there to be fair. But I think there is a lot more education now out in the public.”
The care worker said the work of prominent public figures such as ex-All Black Sir John Kirwan had made talking about mental health issues more acceptable.
This had increased public support for the facility.
“We get amazing support in the community. We quite often get our clients away on holiday and whenever we do a fundraiser we get amazing support from the locals.”
While the Link Centre way of life was now accepted, it had not always been so, and the criticism came from within the healthcare industry.
“We were told ‘you’ll never be able to put people with intellectual disabilities with mental health patients. It will never work’,” Mrs Pain said.
“But I think people are just people, and it does work.”
The clients and the staff were like one extended family, she said.
And the clients continued to be an inspiration to her.
“I’ve had lots and lots of training over the years . . . and it’s the people I help that I’ve learned the most from. What they’ve gone through, and how they keep going.”
Mrs Pain’s aspirations for the facility for the next 25 years were bittersweet.
“Wouldn’t it be nice if there were no more need for this kind of service . . . but I don’t think that will happen. So I’d like to see it continue as it does now.”