After 40 years of serving the community, the Kingston Branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) has announced it is closing.
Stating that “it has been a privilege to serve the community” in a press release on Monday, Feb. 24, 2020, the local CMHA said its Board of Directors “as made the difficult decision to close the branch” as of Tuesday, Mar. 31, 2020.
“Despite the generous spirit and support of the community, the board feels we’re unable to sustain the organization and it’s in the community’s best interest to close and redirect our programs to other agencies,” said CMHA Kingston board president Sherry Lachine in a statement. “This way we’re ensuring people in Kingston are getting the services we provided without interruption.”
The local branch said that until the end of March, it will be focused on supporting its existing clients and their families through the transition, which will include finding clients the appropriate supports within the community.
“Several community organizations have already stepped up to adopt existing CMHA Kingston programs, so supports clients have come to rely on won’t go away,” the press release reads, noting that it will use remaining operating funds – which are made up of entirely fundraised dollars – to make charitable contributions to local partner agencies. “This way, money that was received from local funders or donors remains in the community.”
So far, three CMHA Kingston programs have been adopted by community organizations. Those are:
- The CALM anxiety peer support group, which has been adopted by the Polson Park Free Methodist Church.
- The SPARKS mental health group for LGBTQ+ adults, which has been adopted by TransFamily Kingston
- The Women’s Resiliency Group, which has been adopted by Elizabeth Fry Kingston.
“The CMHA Kingston Branch has been at the core of mental health community supports for our region for decades. We’re pleased to be able to take on CMHA Kingston’s anxiety group, now called CALM group, so the clients who rely on this program can continue to get the help they need,” Polson Park Free Methodist Church pastor Craig Peters said of the change.
CMHA Kingston noted on social media that Ollin.ca, an indigenous holistic and cultural event organizer, is still in transition and still seeking a new location.
“Sadly March 2020 will be our last month at CMHA Kingston Branch. We are so grateful for CMHA being our #1 Community Partnering Organization for several years and has supported us greatly with our drum circles, paint nights, and the annual Earth Day Kingston, World’s Indigenous Peoples, and Día De Los Muertos Kingston – Community Celebration of Life,” Ollin.ca said on Facebook. “We are still in transition and looking for a new home for our 100+ drums and shakers, and to share programming.”
Anyone wanting to connect with Ollin.ca can contact them via email at [email protected], or by phone at 613-770-4522.
CMHA Ontario CEO Camille Quenneville expressed gratitude to those with the local branch, as well as optimism that the organization will someday return to Kingston.
“CMHA Ontario thanks CMHA Kingston’s board, staff and volunteers past and present for 40 years of dedicated service to their community,” she said. “These are unfortunate circumstances, but the Kingston team stepped up to make sure their clients were taken care of by community partners. They’ve made the best of a very difficult situation and have made sure the community is in good hands going forward. Hopefully, one day CMHA will have the opportunity to serve the Kingston community once again.”
The announcement comes only five months after the local CMHA announced it was discussing formal integration with Addiction and Mental Health Services of Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington (AMHS-KFLA).
“We’d like to thank our donors and funders, especially the United Way, for their generous contributions over the years,” Lachine said. “Thank you, Kingston, for 40 years of support. Serving you has been a privilege and pleasure.”
This is a developing story, and Kingstonist will provide updates as more information becomes available. For more information on the CMHA Kingston Branch, click here.