Ontario's largest community health centre warns that residents of North York and north west Toronto may face severe consequences if federal health benefits for refugees are cut.
Toronto - June 20th - Ontario's largest community health centre is warning of potentially serious health outcomes for North York and north west Toronto residents if the federal government goes through with proposed cuts to refugee health benefits. Unison Health and Communtiy Services serves more than 12,000 clients in federal ridings including York South-Weston, Eglinton-Lawrence and York Centre.
"We have clients who are refugee claimants, and are seeing first hand the pain this will cause," says Dr. Andrea Stern, a family physician at Unison. "There are vulnerable
people who are taking medications like insulin right now who won't have access after June 30th. They are panicked, and we don't know what to tell them."
The federal government is proposing to deny all refugees access to basic medications and preventative health care after June 30th through the Interim Federal Health Program (IFH). They are also proposing to deny refugees from 'designated countries' access to emergency care. This includes pregnant women, children and people facing acute crises like heart attacks. The list of designated countries has not yet been released.
"North York and north west Toronto are home to many refugee claimants," says Andrea Cohen, CEO of Unison Health and Community Services. "We are concerned about the widespread health impact in our communities."
Cohen also cautions that denying refugees access to medication and preventative health care may send people to emergency rooms, resulting in severe complications that could have been prevented with preventative medical care. This could make for longer emergency room wait times and increased provincial health care costs.
"People who have health issues without coverage have nowhere else to go but the ER. This move is going to drive people to emergency rooms. If that happens, it will cost taxpayers far more than leaving the current program in place," says Cohen.
Major Canadian medical bodies like the Canadian Medical Association, the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons, the Canadian Paediatric Association and others have warned against the proposed cuts.
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For more information, contact amy.katz(at)unisonhcs.org
As City Council prepares to vote on cuts to the City’s 21 Priority Centres,teachers and community workers across the city express deep concern about impacts on children and youth. Priority Centres currently run free registered programs attended by 12,870 children and youth, many of whom will not be able to return to their community centre programs if this cut goes through.
While some City Councillors have argued that the recreation subsidy program will be available for children and youth cut out of free programs at Priority Centres, the program is severely underfunded and was frozen and unavailable for most of 2011. Given the budget allocation for 2012 – and with increased demand from children and youth cut out of Priority Centres – the subsidy program will be frozen for most of this year.
“The children I teach will not longer have these programs after school to keep them busy, engaged and off the streets,” says Nigel Barriffe, elementary school teacher at Rexdale’s Greenholme Junior Middle School. “If Priority Centres go, the children in Rexdale won’t have access to these programs. Period.” Rexdale has two Priority Centres, North Kipling and Elmbank.
Regent Park Community Centre is slated for renovations, but if Priority Centres are eliminated, community workers are concerned that people simply will not be able to get in. “It’s absurd to spend so much money on a facility that people in Regent Park will not be able to access,” says Rene Adams, community advocate with Toronto Christian Resource Centre. “If they’re going to get rid of Priority Centres, I’d like to see a guarantee that everyone who applies and qualifies for the Welcome Policy will be able to register for programs. I’m not seeing that guarantee.”
There are 21 Priority Community Centres in Toronto that offer free registered programming for 12,870 youth. (1) Priority Centres also extend free space to community groups and free programming to seniors. (2) When Parks, Forestry and Recreation (PFR) applied user fees to adult programs at Priority Centres in 2011, 61 percent of people dropped out of programs. PFR has not studied the potential impacts of this cut on children and youth who attend Priority Centres. They are also unable to provide numbers to City Council outlining how cuts to Priority Centres will affect the subsidy program, the Welcome Policy.
“City Council does not have enough information about how these cuts will impact children, youth and communities,” says Dominique Riviere of the Centre for Urban Schooling at the University of Toronto. “We haven’t seen Parks, Forestry and Recreation’s service plan. We don’t know how many children and youth will be forced to turn to the broken and under-funded subsidy program. City Council is simply not in a position to make an informed decision.”
(1) There are currently 21 Priority Centres in Toronto – they are scattered across the city and not directly related to Priority Neighbourhoods. Antibes Community Centre in the Bathurst-Finch neighbourhood is slated to become a Priority Centre in 2012, bringing to total to 22. For a full list of Priority Centres, please see: http://www.communityrecreationforall.ca/background/frequentlyaskedquestions/#3
(2) Priority Centres also provide free programming to seniors and free space for community groups. Parks, Forestry and Recreation has provided no information as to how changes in Priority Centres might affect seniors and/or access to community space.
When: Wednesday, July 6th, 2011, 10:00 to 11:30am
Where: 550 Finch Avenue West
Unison Health and Community Services will break ground on Wednesday, July 6th to mark the start of the construction of the Bathurst-Finch Community Hub.
The fruition of a partnership between Unison and eleven anchoring and supporting partners, the new Community Hub will service the Bathurst-Finch neighborhood providing services that meet the priority needs of residents.
“As an organization that provides health care, we know how much people’s individual health is affected by the health of their community,” explains Andrea Cohen, Chief Executive Officer of Unison Health and Community Services. “By bringing much needed programs and services to a largely underserved neighbourhood of Bathurst-Finch, we hope to enhance the quality of life in the community and improve the individual wellbeing of its residents. The Bathurst-Finch Community Hub will be a great place for residents to meet, attend programs, socialize and reduce isolation.”
Scheduled to open in spring 2012, the Community Hub will house Unison’s new satellite site providing treatment services, illness prevention, health promotion and community development through an interdisciplinary team of health care professionals. A dental clinic will be operated through Toronto Public Health.
Anchoring partners CUIAS, Family Service Toronto, JVS Toronto, Kababayan Community Services, KCWA Family and Social Services and North York Community House will provide a range of services including settlement, counseling, case management and employment. Other partners include Big Brothers and Big Sisters Toronto, Circle of Care, Downsview Services to Seniors, Hong Fook Mental Health Association and North York Women’s Centre. These partners will offer mentoring, caregiver/family support, case coordination, life skills and violence prevention services.
"This new community centre and hub will be a great asset to Ward 10 and the Bathurst-Finch neighbourhood. This facility will provide additional community space, co-op opportunities for students and impressive resources for all adults, notably seniors and new Canadians," says James Pasternak, City Councillor for Ward 10. "There is a new confidence in Ward 10 and I am proud to be a part of it."
Capital funds for the hub development are being provided through the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, United Way Toronto, and the Infrastructure Stimulus Fund. Unison Health and Community Services, Bathurst-Finch Community Hub lead agency, has been a significant financial contributor as well.
The community hub building will be constructed in an easily accessible location on the corner of Bathurst Street and Finch Avenue West next to Northview Heights Secondary School. The land has been leased to Unison by Toronto District School Board, an important hub partner that has also contributed to the project financially.
In addition to the services offered, the Hub will provide dedicated space and a garden for community members to convene and run programs.
"After working on this project for years as a school board Trustee and now as a City Councillor, it is a great moment when the ground is finally broken," adds Pasternak.
Everyone is invited to come celebrate with the Unison staff, Board members, hub partners and the Bathurst-Finch community.
For more information, please contact:
Andrea Cohen, Chief Executive Officer
Unison Health and Community Services
416-787-1676 ext. 251
Concerned community organizations and residents submit alternative report to City Councillors
Tomorrow, Parks, Forestry and Recreation (PFR) will be proposing a new plan for their subsidy program, the Welcome Policy, to the Community Development and Recreation Committee.
According to City Council, the Welcome Policy is meant to provide Toronto residents year-round access to quality recreation programs, regardless of their ability to pay. All Toronto residents whose income falls below the Low-Income Cut-Off (LICO) qualify for the Welcome Policy.
According to City of Toronto data, 604,048 people have incomes that fall below LICO. Under the new proposal, PFR hopes to reach 28,753 individuals with the Welcome Policy, or five percent of eligible residents.*
Community organizations and residents are concerned about the lack of meaningful consultation and research into access into community programs and spaces, and are submitting an alternative report, Quiet cuts: economic access to community recreation in Toronto to the Community Development and Recreation Committee.
"This proposal leaves 95 percent of eligible residents out of the subsidy program," says Amy Katz of Unison Health and Community Services. "This is not a plan for access."
"PFR has not done a needs assessment, they have not undertaken meaningful consultations, they have not shared relevant data with City Council or the public," says Jennifer Arango of the Toronto City Women's Alliance. "How will PFR create culturally sensitive, gender appropriate and accessible programs without real input from the communities they are serving?"
"Why is the Welcome Policy being discussed in isolation?" asks Karen Sun of the Chinese Canadian National Council, Toronto Chapter. "City Council can't evaluate the Welcome Policy report without knowing what's happening to the Priority Centres, to user fees, to drop-in programs. They can't evaluate the report without seeing the five-year service plan."
"Not only does this plan reach only 5 percent of eligible residents, it also limits the program options of the few people who do get in," says Russ Ford of LAMP Community Health Centre. "We want to know what PFR's vision in for giving everyone access to community recreation and spaces. We want to see a plan."
Although 107,868 people were accepted into the Welcome Policy program in 2011, only 23,527 can access programs. The new proposal hopes to bring this number to 28,753, or 5 percent of eligible Toronto residents.
PFR's June 15th report proposes a shift from a 'course-based' to a 'dollar-based' allocation. In the past, Welcome Policy users could choose from a range of programs per season. Under PFR's proposal, they would be offered an annual dollar allocation - $455.00 for children and youth and $212.00 for adults. This allocation constitutes a substantial cut in terms of what Welcome Policy users are currently able to access.
To read the PFR Welcome Policy report, please visit: http://app.toronto.ca/tmmis/viewAgendaItemHistory.do?item=2011.CD5.4
Unison Health and Community Services celebrates its official launch on Thursday, October 14
The entire community is invited to join the fun!
Toronto, October 12 – Unison Health and Community Services is celebrating its official launch on Thursday, October 14th, from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., at its Lawrence Heights site located at 12 Flemington Road in Toronto.
The entire community is invited to learn about Unison Health and Community Services and enjoy entertainment by local performers. There will also be children’s activities and contests, music and dancing, and refreshments.
In August, Unison Health and Community Services received its formal incorporation approval from Ministry of Government Services. This is the first voluntary merger of two community health centres in Ontario – the amalgamation of New Heights Community Health Centres and York Community Services.
Unison builds on the strengths and best practices of both organizations, aiming to improve access to programs and services for clients and community members. The optimal use of resources of both organizations will enhance the delivery of services in a more efficient and cost-effective manner. In collaboration with partners, the integrated services will provide seamless and comprehensive care to clients.
With extended hours at four full-service locations, clients now can have greater access to a wider variety of services. Unison now serves over 22,000 clients and offers core services that include primary health care, counselling, health promotion, early years programs, legal services, harm reduction programs, housing assistance and adult protective services; special programs like Pathways to Education, Diabetes Education and Prevention, and Aging at Home; and a range of community programs targeted to marginalized groups.
What: Unison Launch
When: Thursday, October 14, 2010, from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Where: Lawrence Heights site (12 Flemington Road, Toronto)
For event information, visit www.unisonhcs.org, or call 416-587-8225 or email ana.garcia(at)unisonhcs.org.