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Program closure leaves gaping hole in mental health services

The union that represents the 33 staff working their last day at a crisis support program Friday is questioning the reasons for the program’s closure.

“I can’t believe that the mental health of people in North York and Etobicoke has improved so dramatically that the services are no longer required,” said Ontario Public Service Employees Union president Warren (Smokey) Thomas.

“I do know that organizing the staff and negotiating a first contract with Saint Elizabeth Health Care was extraordinarily difficult, and the employer was very clear that they did not want to deal with a union in any way, shape or form.

“Now the Scarborough Hospital has cancelled its contract with Saint Elizabeth to provide this service, leaving a gaping hole in mental health services for a large area of the GTA. It is a callous and cold-hearted move,” he said.

The 24-hour crisis support service has operated for about 18 years, providing telephone intervention, case management and crisis visits to people with mental health problems. The $1.2 million was funded by the Central East Local Health Integration Network through Scarborough Hospital.

When the closure was announced in December, Saint Elizabeth was supposed to develop a transition plan, but there is no sign of it, and the doors are closing, Thomas said.

 “I would be interested in knowing what happened to the funding for this service. The need continues; the service is important and should continue; the staff expertise exists. The union has been trying since the closure announcement to find out what is going on – without success.

“Somebody has to have the answers. Somebody has to take responsibility for the huge void in mental health services,” he said.