History – CMHA – Niagara South Branch

The Canadian Mental Health Association, Niagara South Branch (formerly Welland Branch) received its Charter in November 1975, and has been growing and evolving to meet the mental health needs, initially of the people in the Welland, Port Colborne and area communities.  The range of mental health services provided until 1983 included counselling and support services, support groups, information and referral service, public education and a social recreational program.

In 1983, funding from the Ontario Ministry of Health was received to deliver a Regional Supportive Housing Program for the Welland, Niagara Falls and St. Catharines communities. Since then, we have developed a range of housing alternatives throughout the Niagara Region.  In 1994, this program expanded to include Community Support to people who are living in the community and having severe difficulties related to mental illness.

In February 1989, due to a lack of stable, ongoing funding, the Niagara Falls Branch of Canadian Mental Health Association found it necessary to surrender their Charter.  In an effort to ensure the development of mental health services to Niagara Falls, the outgoing Board of Directors requested the Welland Branch to expand its territory to include the Niagara Falls Branch catchment area.  Canadian Mental Health Association, Welland Branch agreed to expand its territory with the understanding that it could not provide direct service programs in Niagara Falls (other than Supportive Housing) until a stable funding base was secured.  As such, the Branch applied for and received a new Letters Patent, changing the Branch name to Canadian Mental Health Association, Niagara South Branch to reflect the expanded service area.

In September 1991, a submission to the Trillium Foundation to fund a Mental Health Promotion Program in Niagara Falls was approved.  Our Agency received a declining five-year grant which provided us with sufficient funds to operate a satellite office staffed by one part-time (30 hours/week) mental health counsellor.  The grant was approved with the condition that we secure stable permanent funding in the fifth year of operation.  This grant allowed us to expand our counselling and support services including support groups, information and referral service and public education into the Niagara Falls and, to a limited extent, the Fort Erie area.

In 1992, our Agency received additional permanent funding from the Ontario Ministry of Health to develop and to establish a Psycho-Social Rehabilitation Program in Niagara Falls for individuals who have a chronic psychiatric illness.  This program was intended to serve people residing in Niagara Falls and Fort Erie.  As a result “Club Niagara”, located on Ferry Street in Niagara Falls, opened in March of 1992.

In 1995, our Branch received a demonstration grant from the United Way of Greater Fort Erie, and in 1996, we received member status allowing us to provide direct services to the Fort Erie community.

In 1998, two new programs were launched in Niagara Falls; A Mental Health Resource/Counselling Centre and a Supported Employment Program.  The Resource Centre is available to people who have mental health issues, their family and friends, as well as the general community.  Resource material will be available to raise the community’s level of knowledge about mental health and mental illness, prevention and coping. The Supported Employment Program is for individuals who have had difficulty obtaining or maintaining employment because of mental health problems.  Participants will explore career goals and ways to overcome barriers.  They will be assisted to obtain vocational life skills, job readiness, vocational counselling, job placements and ongoing vocational support.