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Campaign makes connection with mental health support

Saanich News - 4/24/2017

It’s been said that mental health is an invisible issue, with those suffering its effects outside the view of society as a whole. One local group has a vision to address the problem, one that will provide a supportive environment dedicated to creating opportunity and purpose for those dealing with mental health challenges.

“It’s a rehabilitation program that offers space for people, 18 and over, with issues such as depression, bipolar, schizophrenia. They can socialize and collaborate with each other to better one another’s lives,” said Jackie Powell, chair of Connections Place with Clubhouse International.

Connections Place is a facility proposed for the Greater Victoria area based on the Clubhouse International model. Clubhouse International was founded nearly 70 years ago, providing community-based centres that offer members opportunities for friendship, employment, education and access to medical and psychiatric services through a single facility.

“Everything is under one roof – employment, education, housing, social – guiding people through social inclusion to lead happy and productive lives,” Powell said.

While the Connections Place

facility won’t initially have a housing component, Powell hopes it will be able to direct members to subsidized housing options in the community.

She said Clubhouse can guide people towards education and employment, offering transitional employment with business partners in the community.

“Those jobs usually last six to nine months. By the time you’ve done that, you’ve got your confidence back and your self-esteem is improving and you have something to fill in on your resume.”

But a lot of hard work still lies ahead. Powell estimates that $1.5 million is needed to fund the first three years of operation.

“It includes everything, the rent, staff, training, everything. It sounds like a lot of money, but when you consider what it can do, it’s worth the price.”

Powell said there is an estimate mental illness costs the Greater Victoria economy $600 million annually. Acute care beds can cost up to $1,500 a day, and on average, 68 patients are readmitted to psychiatric emergency services within 28 days.

“Pathways has a societal return on investment of 14 to 1. Every $1 invested in their clubhouse, it saves society $14,” said Powell.

Despite the value of the Clubhouse facility, Powell realizes raising the funds for the facility will be no easy task and won’t happen overnight.

“Our goal is to have it tomorrow if we could. I keep buying lottery tickets,” she said with a laugh.

Island Health has been reluctant to commit to providing funds for the facility.

However, a number of local groups and individuals have rallied to the cause, with the Victoria chapter of 100 Women Who Care recently raising $24,000 for Connections Place.

The Saanich Legacy Foundation raised $2,200 raised with the Fred Talks event in November. The District of Saanich has also provided a community grant of $1,600. Donations to Connections Place can be made through the Saanich Legacy Foundation at .

A May 11 fundraising gala will kick off the campaign to raise the $1.5 million in startup costs. The dinner event is planned for May 11 at 5:30 p.m. in At the Pointe, above Best Buy at Uptown. Tickets cost $100 and are available through . Those interested are asked to RSVP by May 5.


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