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Chronic underfunding of CMHA Niagara puts our most vulnerable at risk

How you can help people suffering with mental health issues in Niagara Region

With 1 in 5 people in Niagara expected to experience a mental health issue, chances are that someone you know has already, or will turn to Canadian Mental Health Association Niagara for support.

It’s the region’s leading provider free mental health and addiction programs, services, consultations, and resources for residents 16 years of age and older. The programs include:

  • urgent support and walk-in counselling,
  • short-term residential safe beds,
  • specialized employment programs,
  • mobile crisis outreach,
  • and intervention services

CMHA Niagara also offers case management, transitional and supportive housing programs, court diversion and connections to other community partners.

If you or a loved one needs assistance CMHA Niagara will be there to help. You can call the Mental Health and Addictions Access Line for information and connection to services, including COAST’s 24/7 crisis support line. Both services can be reached at 1-866-550-5205.

The need for services is acute. Tara McKendrick, Executive-Director of CMHA Niagara says, “Our budgets don’t keep up with demand and they haven’t kept up with inflation, so the increased needs for mental health and addictions interventions and services continue to rise while investments in the health care system for those services is not keeping pace.”

Needs exacerbated by the pandemic

Limited access to friends and family, increased isolation, decreased physical activity and disrupted sleep cycles have led to an increase in depression, anxiety and social isolation.

McKendrick says, “We did see an increase in demand for our crisis line services throughout the pandemic. At times, it has been a struggle for CMHA Niagara staff to respond to those calls for help. McKendrick points out, “When 90% of our expenses are wages and benefits, and those costs increase, we need to cut in other areas or cut staff which means that we have fewer staff to provide services. At a time when people need us most, we’re actually able to do less because we have fewer people.”

CMHA Niagara receives from several sources, including ministries, The United Way, and various grants, but the funding is specific to particular programs and doesn’t always cover the full cost of providing services.

CMHA Niagara hasn’t seen an increase in base funding over the past 10 years. When you take inflation into account, over that same period they’ve actually been defunded about 26%.

How you can help

With no base funding increase in over a decade, fundraising has become a necessary priority. McKendrick says, “Donor dollars are invested right here in the community, allowing us to fill in service gaps and respond to increased requests for mental health and addiction supports.”

Many donations are made by individuals and businesses in the community by hosting a variety of third-party fundraising events, from golf tournaments to bake sales. Donor supports help CMHA Niagara operate programs such as Urgent Support, COAST, Safe Beds, and the Mobile Crisis Team. It also assists them in providing basic needs such as housing, food, clothing, transportation, and hygiene essentials.

Third-party fundraising events help CMHA Niagara expand, enhance, and sustain their services to meet the needs of residents in Niagara Region. Tara McKendrick stresses, “We require the financial support of people who believe in our work and recognize the importance of ensuring mental health and addictions services are available to every member of the community who needs our help.”

For more information on how you can help CMHA Niagara provide mental health and addictions services visit them online, on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram