Kingston branch of Canadian Mental Health Association announces closure: ‘It has been a privilege’

Stephen Hartley, executive director of CMHA Kingston, says the decision to close the mental health agency was difficult, but necessary considering organization's financial future. Global Kingston

The Kingston branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association has announced it will be closing its doors by the end of March.

“It has been a privilege to serve the community of Kingston for more than 40 years. Unfortunately, the Canadian Mental Health Association Kingston Branch board of directors has made the difficult decision to close the branch effective March 31,” a news release sent on Monday said.

According to executive director Stephen Hartley, the board did not believe it would be able to sustain itself financially.

CMHA is run through the support of fundraising and grants, but with changes to health funding in Ontario, and lack of charitable funding, the organization did not believe it would be viable going forward.

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“It honestly isn’t feasible. Our donors have been more than generous over the years, especially United Way. But even looking at that, trying to move forward when we’re looking at overhead costs and so on and so forth, it’s not [feasible],” Hartley said.
Click to play video: 'The Canadian Mental Health Association in Kingston discuss their 40th year campaign and mental health'
The Canadian Mental Health Association in Kingston discuss their 40th year campaign and mental health

Hartley added that it’s now the organization’s main priority to make sure their clients will still have access to the programs CMHA Kingston provided.

“Our number one concern has always been the the people that actually use our services.,” Hartley said.

A few of the not-for-profit’s programs have already been guaranteed to be taken on by other agencies.

Their CALM anxiety peer support group will be taken on by Polson Park Free Methodist Church, the Sparks mental health group for LGBTQ+ adults will be taken on by TransFamily Kingston and their Women’s Resiliency program will be taken on by Elizabeth Fry Kingston.

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Although a merger with Addiction Mental Health Services for Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington was floated last Fall, Harrison said that idea fell through.

Hartley said in the end, the timing wasn’t right for an amalgamation with the provincially funded organization, so they had to drop that idea.

CMHA Kingston will be using their remaining operating funds for the year to make charitable donations to partner agencies.

“This way, money that was received from local funders or donors remains in the community,” the release said.

As for layoffs, Hartley said he is the only employee of CMHA Kingston — the rest of the positions are filled by volunteers.

Hartley says he’s unsure of what he’ll do next. Right now his main focus is trying to leave the community set up to continue getting the services they have been using with CMHA.

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