At Community Mental Health Programs (CMHP), a branch of Mission Services of London, the staff can be likened to Brokers. A client comes in looking for help with an issue, the CMHP staff ask what kind of help they are looking for – whether it’s for mental illness or addiction issues (among other things) – and help the client connect with the service that is best suited for them.
“We serve a population that no one else is really serving: the individuals who are heavy substance users and those who have severe and Sustained Mental Illness (SMI),” Doug Nemeth, Program Coordinator at CMHP begins, “With SMI, it’s always there – clinical schizophrenia, depression, anxiety disorders, bipolar disorders, it’s not just a periodic experience of symptoms.”
Many will experience mental illness in their lifetime in Canada, and these community
supports exist when personal supports cannot take on the full job of assisting someone on their journey to wellness and/or stability. Those with concurrent disorders (addiction AND mental illness, for example), don’t fit into neat categories for services so there are multiple resources that can work together to work for individuals.
“Finding the right fit in supports is difficult,” explains Doug, “and that’s why we are here to help individuals who are struggling to navigate this system in a way that best supports them. Being well without supports is difficult; now imagine being unwell and how draining it would be for them to continue on their own.”
CMHP works differently while also trying to work within the system. The staff do not expect extreme results every day; they want to build rapport with clients when they first connect through the Resource Centre, which is open Monday to Friday. They understand they are one support network of many that these individuals need, and want, to access. “It’s not possible to build a house with one wall and expect it to hold up a roof,” notes Doug.
Staff at CMHP asks what clients need, how they can help, and offer coffee, water, computer access, access to laundry, or even just an ear to listen to what’s going on in the client’s life. “We are system navigators and translators. We encourage the accessing of community resources. Through our Streetscape program, we offer help in getting to appointments, and help clients navigate systems that are convoluted. We will drive clients to appointments in our own vehicles to make sure they get there on time and support clients on their individual journey to more stability,” Doug finishes, “Above all we give clients the dignity of choice and autonomy with them choosing their own wellness journey.”
Written by Rachel Ganzewinkel, Communications & PR Coordinator