The executive director of Fredericton Homeless Shelters Inc. is calling on the provincial government to provide more funding to address mental health issues at shelters.
Fredericton Homeless Shelters Inc. Executive Director Warren Maddox said the organization doesn’t receive enough funding to properly help the volume of people they see stay in the shelters who have mental health issues.
“It’s a massive issue for us, it’s been the one thing that consistently knee-caps us,” Maddox said.
Maddox said 60 per cent of the people who use the shelters have mental health and/or addiction issues.
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He said while there is current, stable funding from the Department of Social Development, he said it’s not enough to address the mental health issues on the front lines.
“The two main shelters — the women’s shelter and the men’s shelter — we don’t actually get money to be able to deal with the kind of mental health issues that we’re dealing with,” Maddox said.
Maddox said there hasn’t been a change to the number of people with mental health issues using the shelters, but said there’s been an increase to the severity of the issues people have.
He said mental health is a “much more complex issue” then dealing with addiction alone.
“You can’t look at getting someone better if they don’t have stability in terms of housing,” Maddox said. “That’s what we offer, but to take someone that’s in a horrendous state, paranoid or disillusion or psychotic … and sort of take them off the street and put them into an apartment without support, they’ll never make it.”
The organization is now also a referral agency and Maddox said staff can refer people directly to mental health and addiction resources and said they also monitor their medication.
“There’s a variety of things that we’re doing to create the stability that they can get better and it’s really sort of trying to get the government to acknowledge that what we do is critical in terms of what they do and really in terms of the price tag associated with it it’s minuscule, it really is,” Maddox said.
He said the organization doesn’t have the money to be able to continue what they’re doing. Maddox said there is federal money coming down the pipes and he would like to see put towards dealing with mental health in the shelters.
In an email statement from New Brunswick Department of Health spokesperson Paul Bradley, he acknowledged the province has secured federal funding to be put towards mental health initiatives.
“The province and the federal government have a health agreement that will provide N.B. with targeted funding of $104.3 million over 10 years in support of mental health initiatives,” Bradley wrote. “While it is still very early to comment on how these funds will be allocated, we are confident that this funding will enable us to improve the quality of health care for New Brunswick families who are in need of mental help assistance.”
He said the New Brunswick Family Plan also focuses on supporting people with mental health challenges.
“We can also tell you that the Department of Social Development provides approximately $115,000 annually, in operational funding, to the Fredericton Homeless Shelters Inc. that covers a range of programs and services and may include support and/or referrals to mental health services,” Bradley said.