Mr. Foster, I am the executive director of the Family Resource Centre Society for the North Okanagan and I am writing this letter requesting your help in righting a government wrong.
Our agency has been in existence since 1992 and offers counselling, support and psycho-educational groups to those in our community who are unable to access these supports in any other way. Typically, our clients are unable to avail themselves of other government programs to help them as they do not qualify or are unable to afford the costs associated. It is important to add that our agency is the only facility in the region to offer certain specific counselling services; among them post-partum depression counselling and support, as well as sexual abuse recovery program for men. For these programs, we find that government agencies refer clients to us for these specialized services despite the fact they do not help fund us in these efforts.
The staff of 24 works in 12 programs and six groups helping thousands of people in the Greater Vernon area on their path to wellness. It is unfortunate that I have to rely on the dedication of the counsellors and support staff to continue to work within our agency, while knowing their government paid counterparts at Interior Health, Ministry of Child and Family and the school counselling arm of the school district receive at least 25 per cent more in salary and benefits.
If our agency has the opportunity to work with clients presenting mental health issues, at first recognition, we are able to save the government thousands of dollars by giving clients skills and strategies to cope with their issues before those issues become too overwhelming resulting in the requirement of more severe health interventions, typically in a hospital setting.
Our funding predominantly comes from government contracts, though there is significant shortfall. In order to keep our doors open and continue to do the essential mental health work we do, we search and apply for other funding, from a variety of sources, to bridge the deficit, as well as fundraise ourselves. We are most thankful that United Way and some community service agencies do what they can in donations to help support us in our work, though this is not usually enough to meet the shortfall. We have also applied to foundations in our funding efforts only to be told that these organizations do not see their role as providing dollars to top up government shortfalls. Can we blame them?
I have just received the funding decision with regard to our application for gaming funds for this next fiscal year. I was dismayed to see that not only is our allocation less than half the requested amount, but is fully $20,000 less than last year.
Premier Christy Clark has informed the people of this constituency that you are a relentless advocator in Victoria for local issues, so I now ask for the same consideration.
Mr. Foster, I am not asking for huge salary and benefits increases to align our staff with their government paid counterparts, though I should be. What I am asking for is government recognition of the essential work we do and the funding to support this work.
Jan Schulz executive director
Family Resource Centre Society, North Okanagan