About 1200 Kingston-area residents with mental illness and addictions may find themselves without needed supports Wednesday if a deal cannot be reached with the professional and support staff of Frontenac Community Mental Health and Addictions Services.
The 130 staff will be in a legal strike position as of midnight Tuesday.
Staff say the future of community-based mental health and addiction services are at risk as downloading of services has not been accompanied by appropriate staffing, support or funding.
The employer is threatening to make matters worse as they propose to cut three front line jobs at the agency after adding two new managers. Workers say the changes will challenge their ability to deliver consistent high-quality support for clients.
This is taking place at a time when the other major community provider of mental health services is also reducing staffing and beds – Providence Care (formerly the Kingston psychiatric hospital) announced its next wave of cuts earlier this year.
About a third of Frontenac's mental health and addiction clients are supported in residential housing that the agency operates throughout the city. A small number of these residents require intensive daily support from these workers.
Front line staff at Frontenac are also a critical part of the court diversion programs to keep individuals with mental illness out of the corrections system.
"These workers are integral to the Ministry's idea of health reform, yet they are put in circumstances that would discourage any professional from seeking a career here," says OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas. "The Ministry, LHIN and Frontenac all must take some responsibility."
OPSEU Local 489 will be setting up a strike headquarters this morning at 510 Frontenac Street in Kingston.
The Local plans to also meet today with Mayor Mark Gerretsen to get municipal support for community mental health.
Local 489 returns to the bargaining table tomorrow.
Monday, December 2 / 1:30 pm
Kingston Regional Office
920 Princess St., Kingston, ON
Rick Janson at 416-525-3324 (Cell)