Patients, clients, residents and family members from across the province are playing a pivotal role in co-designing the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) to ensure the health care system is centred on patient needs. Engaging patients and families as active partners in the key areas of governance, strategy and policy as well as wherever care is delivered is our goal. In the coming weeks, as part of SHA’s one-year milestone, we are featuring the stories of patient and family advisors who are actively involved in the improvement of the health care system. They discuss why they got involved, how they are engaged, and their hopes for the SHA’s future.
If Shane Partridge’s 30-year-old self could see himself today, he’d say “No way,” or words to that effect.
For 20 years, Partridge spent his time in and out of jail. Mornings, he’d drink a dozen beer to feel well enough just to start his day.
“I always felt different. I felt like I didn’t belong,” said Partridge of his childhood in Saskatoon.
As a gang member, he lived a life on the streets and might be there still if he hadn’t ended up in hospital at the age of 35.
That’s when he got a reality check.
A doctor at the hospital told him the internal bleeding he was experiencing was serious.
Shane Partridge says being a patient and family advisor has strengthened his sobriety and desire to maintain his mental health.
“He said, ‘These are steps in my dying.’ I looked around the room and saw I had a partner and children who cared about me. I understood this wasn’t supposed to be my future.”
From there, although it wasn’t always a straight path, Partridge got sober, healthy and built a better life for himself.
One of the biggest influences in turning his life around has been STR8 UP, a Saskatoon-based non-profit gang exit program that provides personal, professional and family healing and development programs, as well as help to connect with and navigate mental health and addictions services and supports. His image is prominent on the organization’s website.
STR8 UP helped him get healthy and, once he was strong enough, he wanted to give back to the community.
“I wasn’t sure how to. To most people, that’s a no-brainer. Volunteer. But, at that time, I’d never even voted before.”
The executive director of STR8 UP told him to just pick something he cared about. Partridge hasn’t looked back since. He’s volunteered on the campaign to elect Saskatoon Mayor Charlie Clark. He addressed the Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights about the need for inmates to be heard, involved and accepted. He is playing a key role in developing the province’s first intervention- and prevention-focused street gang strategy.
In 2016, Partridge, then a national construction safety officer, became a patient and family advisor for what is now the Saskatchewan Health Authority.
“I went in blind. I was referred by a friend. I didn’t know what it was all about. As I started getting involved, I really enjoyed it. You’re appreciated, you’re valued and you have equal input. That was the draw. I saw patients and families being consulted and included. I thought it was a great practice. I support the initiative. I try and be involved in as much as there is opportunity.”
The key area of interest for Partridge, 42, is ensuring better services for those with mental health and addictions issues.
“Everyone has something amazing to contribute, given the chance,” said Partridge, who now works at STR8 UP as its program coordinator and provincial street gang strategy assistant. “It creates a larger point of view and richer understanding when everyone is involved.”
He said being a patient and family advisor has strengthened his sobriety and desire to maintain his mental health.
“Being involved, respected and treated as an equal voice encourages you to want to try to live up to that,” he said. “All these people have given me a chance. They purposely include me and value my input. I owe it to them and myself, to honour that.”