Letter: Mental health program appeals for funds to keep doors open

Open letter to the Honourable Diane Finley:

Open letter to the

Honourable Diane Finley, Minister of Human

Resources and Skills Development:

Re: Urgent call for action to keep the BUILT Network doors open.

I am writing this letter to you in my role as the national executive director of the National Network for Mental Health (NNMH) (www.nnmh.ca) to appeal to you for your intervention and support to save the long standing, successful BUILT Network project (www.BUILTNetwork.ca) a unique program of the NNMH that essentially pays for itself.

This program, which serves the most vulnerable section of our nation (persons with mental and/or physical disabilities who have been unemployed for over three years), has successfully returned over 800 previously-unemployed persons to work, at an annual average savings to the federal government of over $1 million in reduced social assistance payments. This could not have been accomplished without the financial support of the Opportunities Fund of Human Resources and Skills Development Canada.

Suddenly and without warning, this support has been withheld.

Minister Finley, as I write this to you, I reflect on the recent Family Day in Ontario. Family Day is an amazing gift of a day, a day that provides the opportunity for families to connect and have hope in each other and their community; yet for the participants and staff of the BUILT Network program across the country (in Ontario, Manitoba, Alberta and British Columbia), I fear that it is a day that does not hold much hope given the serious news they just received that the long-standing BUILT Network program will be forced to close its doors on April 1.

I am appealing to you to keep the BUILT Network program doors open, on behalf of all of the participants and staff—the people of BUILT Network program who, along with their families will be hugely and negatively impacted by the closing of this proven program. They are the current BUILT Network participants that we serve (most of whom stay involved with the program upon their graduation to receive peer support as they commence their job search); the future BUILT Network participants we had been preparing to serve, and equally important, the 14 BUILT Network staff members (many of whom are former BUILT participants and peers with lived experience of mental health issues), who will lose their jobs April 1. I am urgently appealing to you to keep the BUILT Network doors open.

BUILT Network and NNMH staff has worked tirelessly over the last eight years to ensure this program’s success and are dedicated to continuing to do so. Many of our staff have themselves come so far in their lives as they tread the rugged and ragged path of their recovery journey while living with mental health issues. They, along with our participants of BUILT Network are real heroes—to their families and loved ones, to their community, to me and especially to themselves, as they have made a huge difference by becoming contributing members of their communities here in Canada. The BUILT Network program staff continues to assist the participants graduate and step back into/or rejoin society as fully self-determined contributing employees, taxpayers and citizens of Canada.

Minister Finley, I cannot stress enough that they are all real people, with real families, who live in real communities, who contribute back to a real society in many ways. With all due respect Minister Finley, the participants and staff are not an HRSDC Assessment Grid rating response (which incidentally, BUILT rated very high on this time around as it has at other grant funding times) but real people. They, in the end make huge contributions that make a huge difference for themselves, for their loved ones, for their communities and for Canada.

Minister Finley, I am appealing to you to grant me a meeting to discuss saving the BUILT Network program and keeping the program doors open.

Joan Edwards Karmazyn,

national executive director,

National Network for Mental Health

Kelowna Capital News