Citizens With Disabilities - Ontario
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Quinte Group Takes On Bigger Area For 'Unique' Mental Health Program

Posted By Barry Ellsworth

A mental health support agency east of Belleville has ceded its territory to a sister organization in Quinte in a bid to improve services for those with mental illnesses.

But the service, with a budget of almost $1 million, is targeted in a unique way. Called Consumer Survivor Initiative, it provides employment for those with now-controlled mental health issues, and a sympathetic ear for those who are still trying to get better control of the illnesses through drop-in centres.

"These (CSIs) are programs ... to provide opportunities for people who have had mental health issues (and) it's a mutual peer support model," said Jai Mills.

Mills is executive director of the Mental Health Services Network for Hastings and Prince Edward, which administers the CSI program here. Now the group will do the same for the City of Kingston, and Lennox and Addington and Frontenac counties, taking over from its counterpart in that area April 1. There will be no interruption in service for clients in either district, she said.

The Hastings Prince Edward group will soon advertise for help to staff storefront offices in Napanee and Kingston, Mills said. Prospective employees must come from the local area, have experienced mental health problems, themselves, and have counselling skills or the potential to develop them with training, she said.

"We provide a lot of training," Mills said, adding the underlying belief of the mission is that one must first walk in the shoes of those with mental illness if one is to be best equipped to provide other victims with help.

The Hastings Prince Edward group already runs storefront drop-in centres in Belleville, Bancroft, Madoc, Trenton and Picton, and has an overall staff of 25, she said. The series of drop-ins are known collectively as the Mental Health Support Network.

Clients can come by and talk over problems, cook meals and socialize with others, Mills said.

The number of visits varies by community, with about 10 to 15 people going into the Front Street centre in Belleville daily, and about 20 to 25 in Madoc.

She said the network is successful, with some clients ending up going back to school or finding jobs in the community.

The assumption of the eastern territory was approved by the South East Local Health Integration Network, which sees this as its first major integration project.

Integration of services is part of its mandate, along with planning and funding for 124 health agencies in the region, said SE LHIN chairwoman Georgina Thompson. The region extends from Brighton east to Cardinal, north to Bancroft and Smiths Falls and all of Hastings and Prince Edward counties.

Paul Huras, the LHIN's chief executive officer, said Tuesday that providing the same services for everyone across the region is the reason behind the mental health move.

"What this is really about is bringing some consistency ..." he said, so that no matter where one lives in southern Ontario - Brighton, Bancroft, Smiths Falls or Wellington - the service is the same.

bellsworth@intelligencer.ca Article ID# 918784

Reproduced from http://www.intelligencer.ca/ArticleDisplay.aspx?e=918784

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