A friendly face. A helping hand. These are important to all of us, and they are even more important to people living with mental illness and addictions. In one building in Scarborough, Toronto Community Housing staff have teamed up with the Canadian Mental Health Association to bring specialised supports that are already making a real difference for tenants.
"I must admit that when we began this partnership less than a year ago, I thought there were going to be some growing pains as we learned to work together and get to know each other," said Pio Giralico, Manager, Strengthening Communities in Scarborough program.
Yet according to Pio, the process turned out to be seamless and cooperative. "I attribute this to the fact that all staff involved are caring and compassionate about the work they do," he said. "Everyone realizes that our work is to serve the residents and provide a client-centered approach to service delivery. By working collaboratively, we have created a synergy to achieve these goals."
The Strengthening Communities in Scarborough is a team of clinical staff from the CMHA that includes a Nurse, a Concurrent Disorders and Addictions Specialist, Personal Support Worker and a Case Manager. The staff are on site at the building five days a week.
Strengthening Communities in Scarborough staff (left to right): Laura Laframbois, Bernadette Peters, Michael Macaraig, Pio Giralico, Donna Payne, Keturah Barclay and Steve Lurie.
Since April 2016, SCS has been working with Toronto Community Housing to serve residents living with mental illness and addiction. SCS uses a recovery-based approach to provide support and resources, while Toronto Community Housing staff provide housing support and connections to other community resources.
"We lead and facilitate ongoing collaboration between CMHA and TCHC, enabling success to support residents in this community," explained Gladys Cheung, Manager, Resident and Access Support with Toronto Community Housing.
"This community is one of the many high needs buildings where we anticipate a majority of residents can benefit from the services that CMHA provides and from services that SCS will coordinate."
The building was identified as having significant number of residents needing mental health support. Even though the program is less than a year old, the dedication of TCHC and SCS staff has already helped reduce the volume of calls to Toronto Community Housing's Community Safety Unit and to the Toronto Paramedic Services.
"We are bringing a service to people who wouldn't be able to get mental health and addiction services," said Steve Lurie, Executive Director of the Canadian Mental Health Association. "We were thrilled when we were asked to help put together a program that would bring these services to the people of the building. And we already are seeing reduced calls to EMS, reduced police interventions, and people getting better access to mental health and addiction services. And for us that is huge."
Toronto Community Housing Resident Community Service staff (left to right): Ola Adanijo, Mike Morgan, Sherry-Ann Simpson and Gladys Cheung