The perspective of individuals with lived experience played prominently in the way two CMHA branches informed provincial politicians hosting regional consultations as part of the 2015 budget cycle. In Sudbury, CMHA staff told members of the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs the story of “Pauline,” who was finally able to access housing in her own community and get the supports needed to avoid hospitalization. With the branch’s help, Pauline was able to overcome an ensuing significant health challenge – cancer – and return home and continue receiving the community mental health and health care supports in her community.
Patty MacDonald, CMHA Sudbury Manitoulin’s operations manager, told the committee that the story of Pauline is one example of how the branch is working with community partners in alignment with one of the government’s central initiatives: putting patients at the centre – the right care, right place, right time.
“Though our vocabulary for individuals accessing our services may differ from that of other providers, we are all working for the same population. Patients, clients, individuals experiencing mental health challenges – they need all of us to continue to innovate in changing how we offer services,” MacDonald told the committee. “We understand and are experiencing that more and more, stories like Pauline’s have positive outcomes when there is collaboration across sectors.”
When the committee traveled to Ottawa, they heard from Jennifer Eastham, a local CMHA branch client and poverty elimination mental health advocate. Eastham relayed her experiences living in poverty, claw backs associated with the Ontario Disability Support Program, and challenges finding healthy and nutritious options at the food bank.
“I wish to be like any citizen where I can enjoy my life, eat healthy and have all my basic needs met. However, because I struggle with health issues and disabilities, I am condemned to live a life in poverty, full of stigma and discrimination,” Eastham said.
“Please restore these needed services and benefits as well as raise the rates of social assistance so that I and people like me can live a more dignified life,” she told the committee. “We will cost the overall system less if we can pay our bills, eat better and have access to community resources and services.”
Read Eastham’s full remarks.
There’s still time to provide your input into the Ontario budget process. The Minister of Finance has announced that his consultations have begun. For more information, including tips on what to include in a written submission, visit the ministry’s website. Deadline for submissions is February 13, 2015.