South Cariboo mental health service providers received a $140,000 financial boost Friday from the Cariboo Regional District and District of 100 Mile House.
The funding, which is being provided through COVID-19 Safe Restart grants, will help to address mental health support requests, which have doubled since March 2020. The contributions will support programs as well as staff attraction and retention with the Cariboo Family Enrichment Centre (CFEC) and Canadian Mental Health Association Cariboo Chilcotin branch for a year. The CRD and the District will each provide $70,000.
“We’ve seen some unprecedented times starting in 2017 with the wildfires and the mill closures and now COVID,” said 100 Mile District Coun. Dave Mingo. “This is a little bit we can do to help our community out.”
Following the 2017 wildfires and evacuations, the CFEC saw a 120 per cent increase in demand for services. Mill closures and unemployment have also contributed to this trend. Mental health caseloads saw another marked increase with the COVID-19 pandemic and associated restrictions, with public health agencies noting a rise in reports of substance abuse, domestic violence, and economic hardship.
Paol Hadden, supervisor of counselling services at CFEC said the organization has running a waitlist for services of between two to four months since the 2017 wildfires. He said the demand is attributed to people being emotionally overwhelmed, which has resulted in a trickle-down effect, such as more substance abuse and marriage breakdowns, leading to a higher demand for family counselling services.
Kimberly Vance-Lundsbye, chair of the South Cariboo Canadian Mental Health Association branch, said her organization also seen an increase in the demand for mental health supports and services over the past three years, especially just after Christmas. Her organization offers a diverse portfolio of supports, from counselling to women experiencing domestic violence to homeless outreach, rental subsidy and support. Food security and housing are also big issues across the region, she said.
The branch is also a touchpoint in the community for both those experiencing a mental health crisis that has become worse in the last year with people becoming more vulnerable or people experiencing mental health for the first time, she said.
“We are so grateful to receive this funding, it’s so generous, and it will really help us a lot,” she said.
CRD Chair Margo Wagner said it makes sense to put the COVID restart funds toward mental health services.
“The Board recognizes the challenges all our residents are facing right now, along with the agencies and mental health professionals providing these important services.”