Hamilton mental health agency closing; hope patients will receive ‘uninterrupted care’


Published February 23, 2023 at 3:49 pm

First it was Catholic Family Services of Hamilton, and now Hamilton Mental Health Outreach (HMHO) has become another not-for-profit agency that is closing.

The HMHO, which supports people in Hamilton who manage severe and persistent mental illness, will be closing its clinical operations on June 30. The plan is for clients to move to the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) Hamilton branch and the Hamilton Program for Schizophrenia, which are the two mental health agencies that are not run by the City of Hamilton. Both receiving agencies will be hiring additional workers to accommodate the influx of clients.

Daryn Kilfoyle, executive director of HMHO, told inTheHammer that the relatively small agency was struggling in the areas of funding (which would include funds from the Ontario Ministry of Health) and staff recruitment. The nearly three-year-old long COVID-19 pandemic has also affected the not-for-profit sector.

“Hamilton Mental Health Outreach has been supporting people with severe and persistent mental illness for over 30 years,” Kilfoyle stated. “A lot has changed in that time and obviously a great deal of change has come recently. Rising costs, the strain on Health Human Resources across Hamilton, and our small size present significant operational challenges in today’s healthcare system. In coordination with Ontario Health West and our community partners, the HMHO Board of Directors has carefully and purposefully made the difficult decision to cease services.

“We recognize that this is a difficult time for our patients,” Kilfoyle added. “Thanks to our community partners at CMHA Hamilton Branch, Hamilton Program for Schizophrenia and Ontario Health West, there will be uninterrupted and ongoing care for all the people we support. Patient care will remain our top priority during this transition and HMHO staff will support our people as they transition to other agencies.”

Active clients of HMHO learned of the change around Jan. 20 and 23, either by telephone, letter, or in person. Waitlisted clients were informed by mail recently. The correspondence sent to patients, including those who have been on waitlists for intensive case management for a year and a half or more, emphasized that no one will lose their place in a waitlist.

Receiving such care in Hamilton starts with applying to IntAc (Intensive Case Management Access Coordination; pronounced intake). Once approved, a patient goes on the waitlist, but is often advised about the waitlists.

City ‘saddened’

Part of the care that HMHO has provided has involved partnering with the city’s Mental Health and Street Outreach Program, which is part of the epipidemiology and wellness division within Hamilton Public Health Services. The division’s acting director, Julie Prieto, made note of the plan for the aforementioned two mental health agencies to add patients.

“We are saddened to see a program and community partner who has provided such excellent service for over 30 years close,” Prieto said. “It is our understanding that all the individuals accessing services should have their care seamlessly taken over by either Hamilton Program for Schizophrenia, or Canadian Mental Health Association Hamilton Branch and so this should not represent a loss of services in our community.

“Although this will be a change for our community we hope it will be a smooth transition and streamline mental health services for Hamilton residents.”

It hit the news last month that Catholic Family Services is shutting down on April 30 after 74 years of service. Programs offered by CFS included children’s programs, helped individuals with developmental disabilities, provided care for seniors, nurtured young parents, offered family counselling, taught financial wellness seminars, and guided violence prevention courses.

(Cover images: Pexels stock photo.)

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