The story for Kílala Lelum is borne out of a desire by a group of physicians, nurses, Indigenous Elders and other staff to go beyond the traditional clinical care and provide a holistic and culturally-based system of care. In 2014, there was an understanding amongst these healthcare providers, who had vast experience working with indigenous people on the DTES, that the traditional model of Western medical care did not do enough to provide the highest quality of care.
In response, and following continued requests from physicians in training, Indigenous Elders were invited to collaborate with family physicians by providing one-on-one mentorship with family physicians in training. It was not long until there was an understanding that Elders should be providing direct care to members along with the physicians. This led to the creation of the Vancouver Indigenous Elders Partnership (VIP) program — a pilot implementation and research program that explored the impacts of providing access to Indigenous Elders as part of routine primary care within Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.
Evaluation of the VIP program demonstrated consistent positive impacts on wellbeing, mental health and decreased use of crisis-oriented emergency services when members were supported by Indigenous Elders. Additionally, participants in the VIP program voiced their demand to have access to Indigenous Elders expanded within the Downtown Eastside primary care system in order to provide culturally-based services.
Our cooperative partners Indigenous Elders with an experienced group of inner-city physicians and allied health professionals to provide physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual care to the community in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.
After careful consideration, and out of care and respect for the community, we took the steps necessary to create a Indigenous-focused, and Elder-led, health centre in the DTES that will uphold the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Calls to Action. In this way, the Kílala Lelum Health centre was born.
As for the future, Kílala Lelum has ambitious targets and goals. The long term vision is to provide services for 2000 members on the DTES and to have fully staffed teams in Primary Care and Relational Care working in a symbiotic and mutually supportive system. Primary Care Physician, Dr. David Tu, reflects on the vision, “I’d say we are two years into a five year plan”. Exciting and important milestones remain for our organization as we continue to provide the most culturally-sensitive and comprehensive care we can for our community on the DTES.