Community Mental Health Programs – System Navigators and Translators

Community Mental Health Programs (CMHP) is a branch of Mission Services of London that offers various support services to assist those who are experiencing homelessness, as well as those who are experiencing mental health and addiction issues.

Streetscape, a program offered through CMHP provides crisis service and support for those experiencing mental illness and addiction. There is a 24 hour hotline where anyone can call, leave a message, and a worker will meet an individual where they are. The help doesn’t end there; Transitional Case Managers will work with the individual until a connection with the proper resource has been made, and will continue to work with that person as needed, while the client seeks treatment.

Crash Bed Program offers 21 beds (11 for men and 10 for women) for those who cannot, or will not, access other services in the city. These are last-resort, first-come-first-served basis beds. In addition, the Resource Centre is often the first point of contact for individuals who are looking for free access to laundry facilities, showers, computers to look for jobs or check email, or even just to grab a coffee or glass of water and talk to someone.

CMHP is a place for individuals who have a serious mental illness and struggle with heavy drug and alcohol use; often, those situations are present hand-in-hand with experiencing homelessness.

At CMHP, the staff walk alongside individuals and treat them as such: with dignity and respect for them as individual human beings. This is the branch of Mission Services of London where those who are suffering from serious and sustained mental health issues, heavy drug and alcohol use, and who are at-risk of, or are experiencing homelessness, go when there are no other options that fit their unique needs in the city.

“Finding the right fit in supports is difficult,” says Doug Nemeth, Program Coordinator at CMHP, “but we ask what the person wants, whether it’s to seek counselling, get clean, or get housing, or anything else, and we connect them with the resources that can help them achieve their goals.”

But CMHP doesn’t just stop there – the Streetscape workers continue to work with those individuals while they are in transition, and while they are receiving help. Streetscape is there to help people get to medical or social service appointments, like counselling or doctor appointments, on time, to do follow-up assessments and to lend an ear or helping hand when needed; in addition, Streetscape staff help clients get prescriptions filled at the pharmacy, and a multitude of other daily tasks that those with severe mental illness and those struggling with addiction find difficult.

“We’re like insurance brokers,” Doug explains, “we have the knowledge of all of the resources that exist in London and area. We have community connections with places like CMHA (Community Mental Health Association) and we know how to navigate government benefits programs like Ontario Works (OW) and Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP); we can help find the best fit for clients.”

The community supports are there, but they can be difficult to navigate if a person already struggles and does not understand the system. “Community supports act like the fourth wall to hold up a roof – personal supports and individual motivation can only take a person in recovery so far,” Doug elaborates. Severe and sustained mental illness is characterized by always being present, making it necessary to have both short-term and long-term supports in place. It is also intimidating to face alone when it already makes everyday life overwhelming; CMHP bridges the gap between personal and professional supports for those who are struggling with severe mental health issues and addiction, and who feel alone in their struggles.

It is important, for the benefit of everyone in our community – as neighbours, acquaintances, family or friends – that those most in need of care, are looked after. Long-term supports in the community, somewhere to learn necessary and valuable life skills, and the ability to live as fully as possible are vital in creating a vibrant city for all.


Written by Rachel Ganzewinkel, Communications & PR Coordinator

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