Gates seek­ing more men­tal health fund­ing for Ni­a­gara

Mo­tion takes ‘mod­est amount’ of On­tario bud­get

The Niagara Falls Review - - Front Page - JOHN LAW The Ni­a­gara Falls Re­view

A mo­tion be­ing tabled at Queen’s Park to­day by Ni­a­gara Falls NDP MPP Wayne Gates aims to se­cure $2.5 mil­lion per year to ex­pand men­tal health ser­vices across the re­gion.

“Our gov­ern­ment must do more to en­sure ev­ery­one who needs ac­cess to men­tal health sup­ports can get it,” said Gates, speak­ing at the Ni­a­gara Falls of­fice of Cana­dian Men­tal Health Ser­vices on Wed­nes­day.

The mo­tion calls for cur­rent men­tal health sup­port in Ni­a­gara Falls and St. Catharines to op­er­ate 24 hours, seven days a week, along with the cre­ation of a 24-hour Wel­land lo­ca­tion. The fund­ing would com­ple­ment and ex­pand ser­vices of­fered by agen­cies such as CMHA and Path­stone Men­tal Health. It would also pro­vide more trans­porta­tion for peo­ple in need to get to drop-in cen­tres.

While prais­ing work­ers and vol­un­teers on the front­lines in Ni­a­gara, Gates said the agen­cies “can only stretch their dol­lars so far.”

“We can and we must do more.

“This mo­tion takes a mod­est amount of the pro­vin­cial bud­get,” he added. “This ask would be less than .002 of the pro­vin­cial bud­get, but would go a long way to help Ni­a­gara.”

CMHA ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Tara McKen­drick said one in five peo­ple in Canada will ex­pe­ri­ence a men­tal health is­sue at some point, which also im­pacts fam­ily, friends and care­givers.

“We also know that men­tal health and ad­dic­tion con­cerns do not only ap­pear dur­ing tra­di­tional busi­ness

hours,” she said, adding that cur­rent re­sources in Ni­a­gara “have their lim­i­ta­tions, in hours of op­er­a­tion and staffing to meet the needs of our com­mu­nity.”

“Men­tal health and ad­dic­tions agen­cies in Ni­a­gara are con­stantly, ac­tively re­view­ing how to do things bet­ter with what we cur­rently have, and ad­vo­cate to fill gaps and in­crease re­sources.”

Gates will ta­ble the mo­tion with the sup­port of St. Catharines MPP (and fel­low NDP mem­ber) Jen­nie Stevens, who joined him at Wed­nes­day’s an­nounce­ment. He also hopes it gets the sup­port of Con­ser­va­tive Ni­a­gara West MPP Sam Ooster­hoff.

Gates stressed the is­sue of men­tal health is too im­por­tant to be side­tracked by party pol­i­tics.

“If you come across with an idea that’s im­por­tant for the prov­ince of On­tario, you put the facts in front of them, I think we can get the sup­port of all par­ties.”

Gates is push­ing es­pe­cially hard for men­tal health ser­vices af­ter at­tend­ing the funeral of a youth who died by leap­ing off the Bur­goyne Bridge in St. Catharines in Oc­to­ber. He was shocked to learn an av­er­age of one per­son in the re­gion dies by sui­cide ev­ery eight days.

“The stats speak for them­selves on what’s go­ing on in Ni­a­gara,” he said. “I don’t know how, quite frankly, any gov­ern­ment can say no to pro­vid­ing more ser­vices when we have that type of ra­tio of peo­ple dy­ing. Par­tic­u­larly with our young peo­ple.”

McKen­drick added that as the stigma around men­tal ill­ness and ad­dic­tion is re­duced, more peo­ple are reach­ing out to help. Which puts a big­ger strain on sup­port ser­vices.

“We def­i­nitely see an in­crease in calls to our cri­sis lines. We don’t be­lieve it’s an in­crease in men­tal health, it’s an in­crease in peo­ple ask­ing for help with men­tal health.”

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JOHN LAW THE NI­A­GARA FALLS RE­VIEW

Ni­a­gara Falls MPP Wayne Gates wants more men­tal health and ad­dic­tions ser­vices fund­ing. He is joined by Cana­dian Men­tal Health As­so­ci­a­tion ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Tara McKen­drick, left, and St. Catharines MPP Jen­nie Stevens.

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