CUPE members at CUPE 4891 are beginning job action in protest of chronic underfunding to community mental health and addictions services as the pandemic takes a heavy toll on frontline workers.

“Ontarians experiencing mental health concerns or addictions are suffering because they don’t have the support they need and deserve,” says Janette Krajci, President of CUPE 4891. “Frontline community mental health and addictions workers provide community-based, relationship driven support to clients which has a tremendous, life-saving impact on their well-being.”

CUPE 4891 members successfully divert clients in the west end of Toronto away from other, more costly and severe interventions such as hospital visits or encounters with the criminal justice system.

“We can clearly demonstrate how cuts to community services jeopardizes outcomes for those needing support and how underfunding has led to systemic recruitment and retention issues,” says Krajci. “Our job action is about standing up for those experiencing mental health issues and addictions. Workers cannot afford the three-year wage and benefit freeze being tabled by our employer, especially in light of how understaffing, low wages, and underfunding have made it challenging to recruit and retain staff, which is detrimental to service delivery.”

Members of Provincial Parliament Monique Taylor, Marit Stiles, and Bhutila Karpoche have written to Ministers Monte McNaughton, Christine Elliot, and Michael Tibollo asking for an immediate funding injection of $320,412.51 to improve services for clients and ensure that Regeneration Community Services can recruit and retain qualified staff. To date, there has been no new funding announced to support their urgent call to action.

“We’re adapting our strike strategy to fiercely advocate, educate, and mobilize Ontarians to call on the Ford government for robust, overdue support for community mental health and addictions services,” says Krajci. “We’ll be hosting a series of virtual events, writing letters to Premier Ford and the Minister of Health, engaging in guerilla marketing campaigns and apartment building banner drops to encourage Regeneration Community Services to stand-up for and defend workers.