The strained mental health services at Agence Ometz have been given much-needed relief with a $1-million donation from Miriam Aaron Roland.
The Federation CJA social services agency describes the gift as “transformational,” as it will allow it to help more people suffering from mental health problems.
“Recent budget cuts in the public sector have seen a surge in wait times for mental health services and people are turning to community organizations like us for support,” said Gail Small, Ometz’s chief executive officer. “This transformational gift will be a first big step in meeting the evolving needs of our growing clientele.”
It is the largest gift Ometz has ever received from a private donor.
Marcie Klein, the manager of Ometz’s mental health department, said an increasing number of people have been coming to the agency in the last few years, as a result of cuts to services in Quebec’s public health-care system.
“We have been frustrated by not being able to meet all the needs,” she said. “We have now been able to drastically reduce quite an extensive wait list. We and our clients are tremendously grateful.”
Ometz currently assists 200 adults in Montreal between the ages of 18 and 65 who are living with mental health issues, primarily through counselling and support programs.
“Medical practice and research continue to advance towards a goal of well-being,” stated Roland, a leading philanthropist and trained psychotherapist. “Well-being is more than the absence of illness and infirmity. Many people suffer from stress, anxiety and depression. They and their families require prompt, reliable services and support.”
Ometz’s clientele includes those with illnesses such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depression and anxiety, and many of them live below the poverty line, said Klein.
Ometz has also gained expertise in working with 18-30-year-olds who are living with high-functioning autism, or mild intellectual disabilities that are often coupled with mental health issues.
Roland declined to give any further details about herself, saying that she only allowed her contribution to be publicized in the hope that it may encourage others to help a vulnerable and overlooked population.
Ometz provides both individual and group support. Its main objective is to equip clients with skills that promote autonomy, such as learning how to make the transition to independent living, or find employment. Connecting them to the Jewish community is also an important goal.
This transformational gift will be a first big step in meeting the evolving needs of our growing clientele.
– Gail Small
“It’s really hands-on, concrete support in day-to-day living,” said Klein. Support groups focus on social integration, wellness and stress management.
Ometz will be the community support provider for a new low-costing housing project in Côte-St-Luc, Que. Ten units in two apartment buildings on Emerald Avenue will be subsidized by the City of Montreal and the province, and made available to those with mental health issues.
In addition to budgetary cutbacks, she noted that there have also been changes to the mandates of public institutions. People with long-term problems are no longer getting the same services they once did at community service centres (CLSCs) and hospitals.
Clients come to Ometz through referrals from public institutions, but also “word-of-mouth.” Many simply walk in and are seen in the intake department, Klein said.