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Getting Real. Windsor’s mental health and addictions crisis and what we are doing about it

Dec 11, 2018 | Mental Health, Community and Partnerships

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Each month when the times comes around to write this blog, it is always an interesting and exciting experience for me. I get to talk to you all about the things that are happening here at our organization, share with you lessons in leadership and life that I have experienced over my career, or introduce some colleagues and friends in the form of guest blogs. Writing to you each month is a key part of my efforts to ensure that I’m exploring all the different ways to let you all know what’s happening.

For December’s blog, I would not be fulfilling my responsibility as President and CEO of Hôtel-Dieu Grace Healthcare (HDGH), nor being an accountable member of our community if I didn’t continue the very public conversation our community has been having about the deaths experienced in Windsor on the weekend of November 10th due to drug related overdoses.

As a leader in the provision of specialized hospital and community based mental health and addiction services, HDGH does indeed have a moral, an ethical, a human and an organizational responsibility to take action in this crisis, especially when action means saving lives.

When we look at mental health and addictions programming the funding situation is clearly contributing to our community crisis. For too long now, our community agencies and partners have been forced to be as creative as possible with our resources (or lack thereof). We have combined, reallocated, redistributed, streamlined, held roundtables, hosted panels, formed and attended working groups and committees, all in response to the chronic underfunding to Windsor-Essex’s mental health and addictions sector. We are at the point now, where simply put, more is needed; more in the way of addiction treatment beds, more counsellors, more outreach, more youth interventions.

Our Government needs to recognize that Ontario continues outside of Toronto and beyond London. Real people, with real families, with a lot of life left to live are having their lives affected – in the worst cases people are dying. Our problem is real. This is not ok. This is not doing the right thing.

So what action will you see from Hôtel-Dieu Grace Healthcare?

Over the next few months you will see a mobile unit in the downtown core. A recent study by the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit found that the greatest amount of opioid related emergency department visits comes are from residents in the downtown core. We also know that in the same location, we have high number of hard-to-reach homeless population. In collaboration with Assisted Living Southwestern Ontario, the Canadian Mental Health Association Windsor-Essex Branch, and Family Services Windsor Essex, you will see a Mobile Mental Health and Addictions Unit focused to this area and this population. While a pilot, this unit will address immediate needs, and provide linkages to already exciting existing support – The TSC, Crisis and Mental Wellness Centre for example. This mobile unit is yet another example of agencies finding efficiencies and creatively repurposing existing limited dollars. At this time, there are is no money to take the mobile unit past the pilot stage and ongoing funding will be necessary.

We have submitted an application to Government for a Youth Hub. The Hub would focus on servicing the mental health needs of transitional aged youth in developing an access point offering a range of services. Again, this is in partnership with community partners who see the same needs and are prepared to take action.

We have advised the Ministry of Health that we are prepared to take action to establish a Youth Addictions Program in alignment with our Regional Children’s Centre. Additionally, we’ve identified enhancements in our Withdrawal Management program. With the temporary repurposing of $15,000 HDGH will add an extra part time community outreach worker who will support an additional 20-30 clients between now and March 31, 2019.

The time to act is now. We can no longer bring groups together to talk about what is happening in Windsor-Essex. Hiring consultants and waiting until February for completed reports is time wasted. We need action, we need investments, and we need them NOW. HDGH is committed to doing our part, but we cannot do it alone. We need our community to come together with one voice and ask for the help we need and deserve. We won’t rest – we can’t rest – until we know that the weekend of November 10th, 2018 was the wake up call this community and this government needed to chart a different path forward.

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