Michelle Ruby , Expositor Staff
Agencies in Brantford-Brant are getting $1.4 million from the province for programs that help those who struggle with mental health and addiction issues.
The funding is part of a $174-million investment “to address the critical gaps in Ontario’s system and to support patients and families living with mental health and addictions challenges,” said a news release issued on Tuesday by Brantford-Brant MPP Will Bouma.
The funding includes:
• $1.01 million to the Canadian Mental Health Association, Brant Haldimand Norfolk for opioids addictions treatment services, safe beds, mental health court support workers, addictions and withdrawal management for safe beds, and a funding increase for the Rent Supplement Supportive Housing Program.
• $205,000 to the Grand River Community Health Centre for opioids addiction treatment services.
• $163,000 to St. Leonard’s Community Services for opioids addiction treatment and services and a funding increase for the Rent Supplement Supportive Housing Program.
• $70,000 for the Brant Community Healthcare System for opioids addictions treatment and services.
• And $8,400 for Participation House Brantford for a funding increase for the Rent Supplement Supportive Housing Program.
Bouma said the investments are part of the provincial government’s commitment to invest $3.8 billion over the next 10 years to develop and implement a “comprehensive and connected mental health addictions strategy.”
“Together we will create a connected system of care with comprehensive wrap-around services to ensure that every Ontarian is fully supported in their journey toward mental wellness,” said Bouma. “To ensure mental health and addiction service providers have stable, long-term funding, the government will be making this additional funding available every year.”
According to the Canadian Institute for Health Information, Brantford’s census metropolitan area, which also includes Brant County and part of Six Nations, had the second highest rate of hospitalization due to opioid poisoning in Canada in 2017. At that time, only Kelowna, B.C., had a higher rate.
Early last month, Brantford police reported that three people died of drug overdoses and first responders rushed three more drug-users to hospital for treatment.
The Brant County Health Unit reported that, since January, “there has been a higher volume of suspected opioid overdoses in Brantford and Brant County.”
Michael Benin, executive director of the Brant-Haldimand-Norfolk branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association, said the agency is “very pleased to see additional investments in community mental health and addiction services.”
“The demand for our services is high and the supply remains low despite our collaborative efforts with our local community partners,” he said. “These additional funds are a result of many years of ongoing advocacy by us, our service users and their families, and our association’s Ontario division.”
Benin said some of the money will be used to establish a “safe bed” program in Brantford that allows people to stay in their community and diverts unnecessary hospitalizations and incarcerations.
He said the funding will help address some of the long wait lists for services, including housing, case management, court outreach, recreational programs, help with finding and maintaining jobs, crisis support and counselling.
The local branch of the CMHA served just under 4,000 people in Brant, Haldimand and Norfolk in 2018, said Benin.
Dave Diegel, board chair at Grand River Community Health Centre, said the funding will help ensure programs, including the Brant Haldimand Norfolk RAAM (Rapid Access Addiction Medicine) clinic, “can continue to address mental health and addictions issues in Brantford.”
The clinic, on Colborne Street East, provides medical treatment for people with drug or alcohol addiction, without an appointment or referral.