Peterborough suicide prevention program ‘not sustainable without government funding’: CMHA

'Friday Night Lights' is October 4th. A day chalked full of high school sports in-support of Canadian Mental Health and one specific Peterborough-based program that has been successful. Despite its success, the program isn't receiving funding from any levels of government and won't be sustainable long-term. Mark Giunta reports.

Since its inception in the summer of 2016, the Assertive Outreach Suicide Prevention (AOSP) Program has helped 226 people who had attempted to take their own lives with a 100 per cent success rate.

No one has died by suicide while being helped by AOSP.

The program, which is run out of the Canadian Mental Health Association Haliburton Kawartha Pine Ridge (CMHA HKPR) branch in Peterborough, consists of two suicide prevention workers and another worker who interacts with family and friends of someone in the program.

READ MORE: Toronto Marlies’ Rich Clune to speak at Friday Night Lights fundraiser

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“It was specifically to work with individuals with someone who had a serious suicide attempt,” says Tracy Graham, program manager of crisis mental health (including AOSP).  “They went to hospital and upon discharge, we worked with them and provided them support in the community.”

According to the CMHA HKPR, the cost to run a program like this is about $200,000/year.  No money comes from the Ontario government.

It is funded by events in the community, including Friday Night Lights by Team 55, a Peterborough initiative to tackle suicide.

Friday Night Lights is an all-day sporting event featuring boys and girls high school football and rugby at Thomas A. Stewart Secondary School in Peterborough on Oct. 4.

“It takes a lot of funds to keep (AOSP) going, but we believe in it and it is saving lives locally,” said Dave Pogue, founder of Team 55.

“We can put on all the events we want, but it takes a community to come out and give.”

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Team 55 has raised more than $500,000 for CMHA HKPR over the last six years.

READ MORE: Ontario government announces $3M toward youth mental health project

CMHA HKPR submitted two proposals for funding from the province during the last term of government – both were rejected.

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It hasn’t made a proposal to the new government as of yet.

From a longevity standpoint, officials with CMHA HKPR say the program won’t be sustainable without government funding.

An emailed statement from the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care said,

“Our government is committed to making mental health a priority. That’s why we’re investing nearly $800,000 in the Peterborough area this year for services related to child and youth mental health, supportive housing and treatment for opioid addiction. This is part of our additional $174 million commitment this year to support desperately needed mental health and addictions services on the ground, in schools, communities and health centres across the province. This is part of our larger investment of $3.8 billion over 10 years to develop and implement a comprehensive mental health and addictions strategy.”

“As much as we rely on Team 55 funding and our own internal fundraising dollars, the reality is we can only fundraise so much,” added Mark Graham, CEO of CMHA HKPR.

This year’s Friday Night Lights event will also feature a speech by Toronto Marlies forward Rich Clune as well as auction items including tickets for the Montreal Canadiens vs. Toronto Maple Leafs on Feb. 8 in Montreal along with transportation and accommodations.

The event wraps up with a doubleheader of senior boys high school football.

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