The Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) – Vernon & District Branch held its Annual General Meeting September 26 at the CMHA Vernon Branch Conference Room.
Highlights of the evening included acknowledgements of 60 years of positive achievements in bringing mental health support to the North Okanagan community and the election of the new board of directors who are dedicated to growing mental health awareness and support for everyone along the mental health spectrum in our community.
CMHA Vernon & District was established in 1959, with one of its first achievements realized in helping establish the psychiatric unit at Vernon Jubilee Hospital. In its early days, CMHA funded treatments and supports for patients, and provided educational resources to medical practitioners and local agencies working with mental health patients. Over the years, CMHA created social enterprises, employment and volunteer opportunities, and supportive housing for those living with mental illness and affordable housing for families.
“The founding members stood up to stigma and showed their resilience as role models in the community. They opened hearts, changed minds, and broke down the barriers that kept mental health issues in the dark,” said Julia Payson, Executive Director for CMHA Vernon.
“This past year we have seen encouraging growth in the number of lives being profoundly changed,” she said. “We are excited to create new partnerships and offer more supports to our community.”
Last year CMHA Vernon received $3 million in provincial funding to renovate its Albert Place facility to create 30 additional units of affordable housing for seniors and families. CMHA currently houses 261 residents in 144 units throughout Vernon.
In March, CMHA committed to continue the vital work of Mental Illness Family Support Centre, ensuring families continue to receive education, resources and one-on-one assistance for families of individuals diagnosed with a mental illness.
The Crisis Line took 6,529 calls, an 11% increase over the previous year, while the Good Morning safety check-in program connected with isolated individuals more than 8,800 times.
Recognizing the importance of social connection, CMHA expanded its nutrition program from five to six days a week, preparing and sharing 9,189 meals last year, an increase of 30% from the previous year.
Tragically, our community has been shaken by the tragic loss of youth to suicide. The Interior recorded the highest rate of youth suicide in BC from 2013 to 2018, nearly double the provincial rate.
CMHA brought the award-winning Robb Nash Project to Vernon. More than 1,400 students and teachers from 14 schools in in the North Okanagan turned out for Robb Nash’s powerful message of pursuing strength and resilience through addiction, bullying, self-harm and suicide.
The organization also began a series of Youth Community Dialogues in Vernon, Armstrong and Lumby to reach out to rural youth and those lacking access to mental health services and addressing our community’s disturbing opioid crisis and youth suicide rates.
CMHA also received the Beach Radio Community Airtime Award in partnership with Lake City Casino and Hytec, receiving $35,000 in airtime over a six-month period to connect the voices of mental health to the broader community and bring awareness to vitally important mental health services.
CMHA Board members continuing their terms include Tom Christensen, Twylla Genest, Dave MacKenzie, Richard Finn, Matt Garcia and Tom Nolan, Robert Carscadden, David Service. Scott DeLong was re-elected to the Board.
Newly elected members include Jodi Cunningham, pharmacist/owner of The Medicine Shoppe, David Penner, building project manager at Kal Tire, and James Schneider, partner at Agar, Schneider and Lett.
Retiring members Jay Hack and Tanya Wick were thanked for their dedication to promoting mental health and wellness in our community over the years.
CMHA Vernon & District Board of Directors 2019-2020
Richard Finn, President
Tom Christensen, Vice President
Matt Garcia, Treasurer
Twylla Genest, Secretary