Screenshot of zoom meeting

We’re kicking off Mental Health Week with a $72,000 grant to CMHA

Funds will support Peer Support Program

A grant from Innisfil Community Foundation (ICF) is giving the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) of Simcoe Muskoka a boost during Mental Health Week.

ICF granted $72,000 to CMHA to fund its Peer Support Program – a program that connects people with lived experience of a mental health challenge and/or addiction, and pairs them with other community members who are struggling with similar challenges. Peer supporters help support people in need socially, emotionally and practically as they navigate the mental health system.

“COVID-19 has challenged our community in ways we have never seen before,” says Sandra Rizzardo, ICF Board Chair. “So many of our friends, neighbours and loved ones are struggling with mental health and addiction issues right now. There is so much need in our community and we are pleased to provide this funding so that CMHA can sustain this life-saving program.”

This latest grant is the continuation of ICF’s support of CMHA’s Peer Support Program. In 2020, ICF provided CMHA with funding from the Government of Canada’s Emergency Community Support Fund, to help formalize the program that was at risk due to COVID-19 cutbacks. In just six months, the program gained enormous traction and was able to help hundreds of people experiencing mental health and addiction challenges.

“COVID-19 has revealed some stark realities about how underfunded mental health and addiction services are,” says Dr. Valerie Grdisa, CEO, CMHA Simcoe County.  “Innisfil Community Foundation’s funding has been phenomenal in supporting this evidence-based approach and allowing the Peer Support Program to come to life over the past six months.  More and more clinicians are embracing peer support as a way of complimenting the services they offer. The demand is growing, and this grant will allow us to expand the program, help more people, and truly show how peer support works as an important part of holistic care.”

The gaps that existed in the mental health system prior to COVID were only amplified with the onset of the pandemic. People in need continue to see long waitlists for clinical services and supports, individuals leaving hospital or in-patient programs are unable to access services as they move back into community, and more and more individuals experiencing an onset of anxiety, depression and substance use issues.

“When we are in that in-between zone of waiting for service – that’s where we can be most vulnerable,” explains Hayley Peek, Program Coordinator for Peer Support Services, CMHA Simcoe County. “The Peer Support Program plays a critical role – it’s that bridge that can help us feel supported as we navigate our next steps.”

In addition to one-on-one peer support, ICF’s grant is allowing CMHA to continue their successful online support groups which are giving people a safe space to connect with others struggling with similar issues including anxiety, addictions, hoarding, OCD and general mental health.

CMHA’s Peer Support Program is free and confidential for all Innisfil residents. If you are feeling overwhelmed, stressed or struggling with your mental health, know that you are not alone.  Contact 705-726-5033 or for more information.