Front-line staff claim clients are neglected due to cuts at Addiction and Mental Health Services KFLA
Front-line staff members who have worked in homes run by Addiction and Mental Health Services KFLA, are saying staffing cuts have lefts clients frequently with little to no supervision, causing dangerous situations for both staff and clients.
Global Kingston spoke with two people who work in the agency’s housing units, both of whom wish to remain anonymous out of fear of losing their jobs.
“The housing is terrible. It is so unfit it is unbelievable,” a security officer, who has worked in the agency’s homes for over a year, told Global Kingston. “At least two to three nights a week, the houses are not being manned by any type of worker,”
According to the Addiction and Mental Health Services KFLA website, the agency “provides a range of housing services with varied levels of support, from 24/7 staffed homes to independent living.” The agency manages a total of 16 properties that house more than 170 people.
A housing rehabilitation worker who has been with the agency for several years mirrored the security officer’s statements.
“They will often not fill shifts and leave houses unstaffed.” They attributed those decisions to an attempt at balancing the agency’s dire financial situation.
“Managers also often state that as long as there is a security guard overnight, houses can be left without clinical staff, despite the fact that the clients we support are very seriously ill and require intensive support,” the rehabilitation worker added.
Both sources said the security personnel are not qualified to deal with mental-health concerns, and are sent into the homes with about two hours of mental-health training.
WATCH: Addiction and Mental Health Services in the Kingston area lay off staff
They also said in at least one of the homes, patients use drugs regularly which contributes to violent behaviour towards staff, other residents and themselves.
“I’ve been attacked by a number of different things,” said the security officer. “I’ve had a microwave thrown at me, to needles, frying pans, pots, I mean, they throw everything.”
The officer described the home where drugs are ubiquitous as “unorganized chaos, people screaming, people fighting.”
According to the rehabilitation worker, reduced staffing of trained mental-health professionals can have a severe effect on those living in the homes.
“Managers are aware that leaving houses unstaffed can be quite triggering to some of our clients who depend on consistency, and yet they themselves will not come in to support.”
Both also mentioned that in some homes where clients have paid to be watched over, fed and helped with daily needs, have been left alone on some occasions and are often not provided with full services.
“It absolutely breaks my heart to see what these people are going through. This organization is taking advantage of them in every way, taking advantage of the Ontario government, taking advantage of the people that live there,” the security officer said.
Over the last several weeks, the mental-health agency has lost its top two executives, and the South East LHIN, the provincial agency that funds health services in the province, announced they will be appointing a supervisor to set the agency back on track.
This comes after an investigation into the organization, which resulted in several recommendations focusing mainly on the agency’s financial mismanagement.
CEO of the South East LHIN Paul Huras said many of those recommendations were not adhered to in the months following the review, which prompted the LHIN to impose a supervisor to run the agency, and move its administrative office to the Hasting Prince Edward branch in Belleville, resulting in 30 jobs losses in the Kingston area. This comes after 22 additional layoffs in October.
In response to a story published by Global Kingston last week, Don Seymour, the former CEO of Addiction and Mental Health Services in Kingston, said in a tweet that he blamed the agency’s financial troubles partly on the South East LHIN’s “operational interference” into a “community organization.” Seymour said that interference resulted in significant restructuring at the Kingston branch, including his role as CEO.
He continued, saying that he hoped that the interference did not impact the clients of the mental-health agency.
Seymour refused to comment any further.
When asked last week whether the South East LHIN was aware of any staffing complaints, Huras said he wasn’t aware of any of those concerns, but if there were such issues, the LHIN will find out soon.
“That’s not something that can be hidden from the supervisor,” Huras told Global News for a story on Nov. 30. “The supervisor will be talking to many, many people and will really get a feel for the organization and the culture and how it’s run.”
WATCH: Mental Health First Aid has come to Kingston
The supervisor has not yet been named, and the LHIN could not give an exact date when one would be appointed.
When asked whether clients in their homes were often left without a mental-health professional, Terra Smith, communications co-ordinator with Addiction and Mental Health Services KFLA, said, “Our staffing model ranges in intensity across our programs, staffing in our homes is scheduled based on client need.”
Smith also said as of Monday, the agency will be ending their contracts with their security services.
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