More money for mental health 

VCHA comes up with $200,000 for North Shore/Coast Garibaldi

The Vancouver Coastal Health Authority will inject more money into mental health services in Coast Garibaldi after slashing programs and staff earlier this year.

Programs in North Shore/Coast Garibaldi will get an additional $200,000 after the initial cuts proved too costly to mental health patients in the area.

"Vancouver contributed the funding to the North Shore/Coast Garibaldi area to address some of the inequalities in funding levels," said Paul Charron, rural regional manager of mental health and addictions for the VCHA.

"Also, I think somebody realized the impact those funding cuts had on some of our services."

He calls the money good news for mental health patients in the area.

Out of the $200,000, Coast Garibaldi will get $120,000.

The money will be going to community-based programs, like vocational, life skills and resocialization programs, to help people with chronic and persistent mental illnesses.

Charron said these programs will teach patients things like budgeting their finances and getting back into the workforce, the kind of things he said most people take for granted.

Patients will be introduced back into the workforce on a volunteer basis first, then move to part-time, with the goal of eventually becoming full-time.

"One of the real serious issues for people with serious and persistent illness is getting back into the workplace," said Dr. Stephen Holliday, manager of mental health services in the Sea to Sky.

"Nothing knocks you out quicker than a real serious mental illness."

Many patients with chronic mental illness are also on social assistance.

"We often ask people who have the fewest resources to do the most complicated things," said Holliday.

"So we want to establish more of a community based psycho-social rehab emphasis on the mental health programs here."

When the VCHA revamped the health system earlier this year, mental health programs were cut and staff was downsized.

Holliday said they tried to protect the core mental health programs in the area from the cuts.

In return, programs like consumer and family activities programs, which had been developed over the years, were sacrificed.

Charron said the rural areas were affected by these cuts to mental health programs more than urban areas. For example, if a program is cut in a rural area, there generally isn’t a replacement program in the vicinity, he said.

"Rural areas don’t have the diversity of programs that urban communities do to supplement it."

The total funding for mental health services in Coast Garibaldi in 2002/2003 is $4.5 million. That budget is roughly equivalent to budgets in the recent past.

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