Kelowna faces the prospect of losing a mental health support and education resource when the demand for those services continues to escalate. The Kelowna branch of the B.C. Schizophrenia Society, which first opened in 1990, may have to close before the end of this year due to a lack of funding.
April Butler, president of the BCSS Kelowna branch, said at this point the society can only pay the rent at its Leon Ave. location for November, and can’t pay the office coordinator, the lone paid employee, beyond this month.
“We have volunteers right now feverishly preparing grant applications for potential funding to carry us forward, but it’s a bit of a dilemma as we’ve had to use up our reserve funds,” said Butler.
“We are disappointed to be in this situation but we are keeping the faith…because to close our services down would be a huge loss for the community.”
The Kelowna branch’s financial woes started last year when a key operating grant from the BC Gaming Commission was cut from $50,000 to $30,000. Several other grant applications made earlier this year were also rejected.
“It’s the same response from grant programs, they think what we are doing is great however there are so many organizations in need, they have to choose someone and it’s not us.”
The financial dilemma comes at a time when the BCSS has seen a dramatic upsurge in people seeking support for mental health issues, either for someone directly affected or those seeking help for their child or loved one.
“It has been a challenge of late with the increase in folks coming to us. We chat regularly with Interior Health and the Kelowna branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association and they are seeing what we are seeing,” Butler said.
“Where we might have 10 folks come to us in a month seeking help, now it is 30 to 40.”
Why that is happening now is a mystery within the mental health support services community, but Butler said the support demands are adding stress to an already over-burdened care network.
While the society’s name draws attention to schizophrenia, Butler says they offer support and education programs for all psychosis disorders, from anxiety to depression to bipolar disease.
“Parents often walk in our door for the first time looking to seek help for a son or daughter or a loved-one suffering in a psychosis state, not sure what to do to help them,” Butler said.
“Seniors come to us because they may no longer be able to look after a loved one and wondering what they can do.”
She said more teenagers are showing up at their doors as well, as adolescence is where mental health disorder symptoms end to start being exhibited.
“Teens reach out for help often because their parents don’t see or want to see those symptoms as any kind of heath problem. Otherwise, those kids turn to substance abuse or alcohol, end up on the street and ultimately in the hospital, from which point care services can kick in,” Butler said.
“That’s great but the challenge is those teenagers have to go through all that before they can get the help the need, and there is a waiting list to access that help.”
Butler said the BCSS’s education program component reaches out to students, talking about mental health disorders, the symptoms that arise and eliminating the social stigma and discrimination often associated with openly discussing them.
Butler is resigned to doing what she can as a volunteer to keep BCSS support group programs continuing if funding runs out, but there is a limit to what she and other volunteers can absorb.
The Kelowna branch has planned two fundraisers this month to help relieve the financial stress.
One is a bottle drive donation and barbecue at Mission Creek Regional Park on Sunday, Nov. 12, 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., and the other is a silent auction of community donated items.
For more information how to support those initiatives or the society in general, go to www.bcsskelowna.org or call 250-868-3119. Bottle donation home pickup can be arranged by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
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