Centre for Mental Health makes an IMPACT during COVID-19

Catherine Vernon (left) and Patricia Melville are teaming up with staff and community members to keep this initiative going during this crisis, and year-round.

It was just last winter that staff, partners and community members at UHN’s Centre for Mental Health, part of Toronto Western Hospital, banded together to raise funds to purchase grocery gift cards for patients in need over the holiday season. The Grocery Gift Card Fund began in 2015 thanks to a generous gift from a grateful patient, and since then has become an inspirational model of giving throughout UHN and Toronto’s community. Over the past five years, the fund has raised more than $26,500, providing more than 530 people with food.

Catherine Vernon, administrative assistant in the Community Mental Health Clinic, is the creator behind this wonderful initiative. While monetary donations are accepted 365 days a year, there is now an urgent need to help: in the midst of the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, food banks and daily meal programs throughout the city are closing their doors in order to “flatten the curve” through physical distancing. This is putting many people, as well as their families, at risk of going hungry.

Recognizing this need, Catherine reached out to Patricia Melville, team lead for IMPACT, a UHN-led outreach program that provides community-based care to individuals living with severe and persistent mental illnesses. IMPACT offers home visits for clients who are not able to use traditional outpatient services. The multidisciplinary team provides medical consultations, treatment and support, with the goal of helping people function optimally within their communities. However, due to the heightened COVID-19 self-isolation and quarantine policies, many food banks and other meal services are unable to operate as per usual. Patients in need are now facing challenges getting nutritious food because of decreased or modified services, and their low incomes.

Together, Catherine and Patricia are raising awareness and seeking funds to help put meals on the table for community members in both their programs.

“These gift cards offer a lifeline of support – especially now – for so many of our patients,” says Patricia. “Groceries are an essential service that we can provide that offers hope within our community and meets a basic human need.”

“It also helps to normalize the process of going grocery shopping,” adds Catherine. “People feel empowered when they can choose their own food, and provide for their families.”

Support for the Grocery Gift Card Fund is vital to ensure that those living with mental health issues are able to purchase food during this time of crisis, and throughout the year. Help make an impact by donating here.

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