Just days before the Integrated Care Hub was set to close its doors due to a lack of funding, a lifeline came from the province.
The hub’s future was in jeopardy after the City of Kingston said it didn’t have enough room in its budget to keep it running.
The hub was poised to close March 31st, unless a new funding source was found.
“We knew that, eventually, that the city funding would be running out,” says Mayor Bryan Paterson.
“Being able to have those early conversations with the province, we’ve had a really good dialogue with them throughout. But obviously there’s been greater urgency in the last couple of months, and certainly in the last few weeks.”
Hastings-Lennox and Addington Conservative MPP Darryl Kramp joined the mayor at City Hall for a news conference, announcing the provincial government will provide $4.6 million for the ICH, enough money to keep the doors open for another two years.
The province says $2.3 million will be used for each year.
“This is welcome funding to address an ongoing health concern in the community,” says Kramp.
“The efforts and needs of the Kingston community have been noted by the Ministry of Health and the Minister has responded with this support announced today.”
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For HIV/AIDS Regional Services, which operates the Montreal Street hub, the news comes as a big relief.
“We had informally been told that we should be optimistic, that there may be good news coming, but until the announcement is made, it’s not real,” says Gilles Charette, executive director for HARS.
“I would say yesterday, when I got the invitation to come for this announcement, I was able to breathe. I could feel my shoulders relax a little bit.”
Read more: Steps being taken to address Integrated Care Hub issues raised by residents: Kingston mayor
First opened in 2020, the Integrated Care Hub provides shelter, and a range of other services, for the city’s unhoused community.
Staff there are also on the front lines of the drug overdose crisis, saving many lives in the process.
“The staff at the Integrated Care Hub, since we’ve opened, have responded to over 600 drug poisonings,” says Charette.
“So that represents a number of people who are diverted from emergency rooms, and there’s no question that also results in a number of lives that have been saved.”
This funding is part of Ontario’s $3.8 billion, 10-year plan to address mental health and addiction services, which have seen increased demand during the pandemic.