You’d expect a healthy workplace environment at the Canadian Mental Health Association, wouldn’t you?


city_scope_logo-cmykThey deal with some of the most vulnerable members of the community, but staff at the Elgin branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association say they are struggling with their own unbearable stress.
And now, members of OPSEU Local 133 are breaking the silence.
Bolstered by CMHA members from Oxford, about two dozen staff took a stand outside the Centre Street office where they claim to be working in an environment of fear, intimidation and anxiety.
According to Carol Warner, OPSEU staff representative, St. Thomas employees are consistently targeted and penalized by upper management for speaking up about health, safety and other workplace concerns.
“It’s hideous, it’s a long-standing issue,” notes Warner. “I would say it’s a systemic issue. We have grievances in the docket that are, at a minimum, four or five years old. And the grievance program has flaws as well.
“If one decides to, they can influence how quickly or how slowly the grievance process unfolds.” Continue reading

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Utility merger could power an expanded vision for St. Thomas Elevated Park


city_scope_logo-cmykAs if playing home to this country’s first elevated park wasn’t high enough honour, St. Thomas could be one starting point for an ambitious trail project – an undertaking pinned to the pending merger of St. Thomas Energy and Entegrus, based out of Chatham-Kent.
Earlier this week Serge Lavoie, president of On Track St. Thomas, released details of what the St. Thomas Elevated Park will look like when the gate at the eastern approach swings open Aug. 27. 
When the organization acquired the former Michigan Central Railroad trestle – built in 1929 at a cost of $689,000 – the purchase included 4 km of railway right-of-way at the western end of the structure running to Lyle Road in Southwold.

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Roundtable on rural poverty: Is the province out of touch?


yurek-legislaturejpgIs the goal of this provincial government to encourage migration from rural areas to urban centres, as suggested by one Elgin county mayor? That was one of the issues raised at a roundtable on rural poverty held Feb. 24 at the CASO station in St. Thomas and hosted by Elgin-Middlesex-London Conservative MPP Jeff Yurek.
Attended by two dozen municipal and social/community agency representatives, the forum was designed to get a sense of what rural poverty is and its impact on St. Thomas and Elgin county municipalities, explained Yurek afterward.
“What’s available and what barriers are out there for people. Too often policies are developed in Toronto with an urban lens and we need to look at it with a rural point of view. It’s different living in rural Ontario and we need to have a balance in policies to ensure we can help get people out of poverty in rural Ontario.”

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A new beginning, but about the ending


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It’s a new beginning for Tara Hall. The 36-bed, adult assisted-living home dating back to 1988 on Chester St., is under new ownership and is now re-branded as New Beginnings Residence.
Late last year we dwelt with the domiciliary hostel, one of several unregulated residences in St. Thomas that provide board or lodging for vulnerable individuals who need supervision of their daily living activities.
The facility currently is on a month-to-month contract with the city for the provision of lodging and late last year, the situation with Tara Hall and previous owner Jim Akey was the topic of discussion behind closed doors.
We had a lengthy discussion with new owner John Gaspar, who operates four other residences across the province.
“When taking over the place, I was surprised there was a level of violence and a bit of chaos,” Gaspar admits.
“Doing further investigation,” he continues, “there were some agencies, and even the police, that were not happy with some of the rumors about what was going on in the place. So, I wanted to make a clear and fresh start and let the community know this was a new beginning and hence the name.
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The future of mental health care in St. Thomas-Elgin is the thin edge of the wedge


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Proposed funding cuts in Elgin county are the thin edge of the wedge — cost-saving measures that may make sense in a business model, but when you’re dealing with mental-health issues, you may be saving dollars, but don’t people count?
Paring back of the outpatient Crisis and Relapse Prevention Service (CRPS) based at Regional Mental Health Care, St. Thomas, accessible to the public and physicians for the past 34 years, is another tragic example of a funding bias on the part of the province.
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