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


Tom, Bob . . . talk to us, we’re waiting

The hand is on full-throttle damage control over at Community Living Elgin and as Times-Journal reporter Jennifer Bieman wrote Thursday, a news release sent our way prompted more questions than provided answers.
You have to chuckle when a release opens with the qualifier the organization “would like to clear up any misunderstandings, or inaccuracies in the recent articles and media statements.”
Hey, the confusion isn’t at this end, Tom and Bob.
That would be Community Living Elgin executive director Tom McCallum (no relation) and board of directors president Bob Ashcroft.
The release, by the way, was issued by the board of directors, but was unsigned. Continue reading

A quotation for everything: the past year in review


It’s been a City Scope tradition to greet the incoming year by surveying the past 365 days to savor the wit and wisdom of our elected representatives.

As a collector of quotes from a variety of sources, it lends credence to the words of wisdom from British author Dorothy L. Sayers: “I always have a quotation for everything – it saves original thinking.”

Of course, when media scribes document a response or comment to the pages for posterity, we must be prepared for the inevitable charge of being taken out of context.

Or, as one anonymous wag noted, “You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say will be misquoted, then used against you.”

With the preamble out of the way, let’s glean through a year’s worth of columns to fully appreciate what transpired in 2012.
Continue reading

There’s life – and pressing concerns – beyond the GTA


Two examples this week to illustrate Premier Dalton McGuinty’s complete disdain for life beyond the confines of the Greater Toronto Area.
From the don’t-bother-me-with-the-details file, McGuinty made it clear this week he’s not interested in observing first-hand the incendiary conditions at the Elgin-Middlesex Detention Centre.
Not only will the Premier not accept a challenge from Warren (Smokey) Thomas, president of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union, to visit the beleaguered facility, he won’t comment any further beyond his observation two weeks ago on a visit to London.
“Obviously, there is more work to be done and I know this is a very important file on the minister’s desk.”
Where, for too long, the file has sat.
Continue reading

Stop bed cuts and assess mental health needs in St. Thomas and London – OPSEU report

LONDON, Sept. 20 /CNW/ – Its time to stop cutting beds and do an updated mental health care needs assessment in the London area says the Ontario Public Service Employees Union in a new report released today.

OPSEU is releasing “No Place To Go” following a summer of confusion over bed transfers from Regional Mental Health Care – London and St. Thomas.

Bed counts at the mental health hospital will drop to nearly half over the next four years, 138 beds transferring away from the RMHC, as many as 80 beds disappearing entirely.

The union argues that while the target bed counts come from the 13-year old recommendations of the provincial Health Services Restructuring Commission, the province has failed to provide promised replacement care in the community.

“The Health Restructuring Commission was very clear that none of these beds should be lost before services are replaced in the community,” says OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas. “They cut the beds, but they never even came close to replacing those services elsewhere.”

The union argues the costs of only taking half of the HSRC’s recommendations have been high. The government’s own discussion paper admits that mental health and addictions costs the Ontario economy $39 billion per year, and that for every dollar spent on mental health, $7 is saved in health costs and $30 saved in lost productivity.

The union is also concerned that relying on a planning document that is 13-years old may not take into consideration more recent demographic projections. For example, the Alzheimer’s Society of Ontario has projected the number of Ontarians with dementia to double within the next 25 years. With half the available beds, this could put London’s mental health services under incredible stress.

The union is recommending the plans for the new RMHC be placed on hold until a needs assessment can be completed, one that takes into account the 10-year provincial mental health plan that is expected to be completed later this year.

“You don’t make major changes to services first, then plan later,” says Thomas. “With private consortiums bidding on the new RMHC in London and St. Thomas, it’s important we get this right.”

Copies of the full report can be downloaded: here