Newcomers’ Health and Well-Being program


AUDIENCE   Settlement, social, and health service providers

POPULATION OF INTEREST   Immigrants and refugees

LOCATION   York Region/South Simcoe, Ontario

THE NEED   In recent years, this particular area of Ontario has seen a growth in the numbers of immigrants and refugees settling – and mental health service provision has been particularly lacking for these populations.

WHAT'S PROMISING   The Newcomers’ Health and Well-Being program combines the expertise of mental health providers such as CMHA and Cedar Centre with the knowledge of the settlement process that the Welcome Centres has.

KEY TAKEAWAY   It is important for organizations to establish partnerships across sectors to provide a more holistic and wrap-around approach to supporting the mental health of immigrants and refugees.

Newcomers’ Health and Well-Being program

Brenton Diaz, Clinical Coordinator and Therapist, Adult Program, Cedar Centre, writes:

Cedar Centre

Cedar Centre was established over 30 years ago to work with people who had experienced childhood sexual abuse. In recent years, the non-profit agency’s mandate has expanded to include all forms of childhood interpersonal trauma (abuse of all kinds, neglect, bullying). Cedar Centre provides Trauma-specific services to our participants from ages 3 to 99+ years old, and provides consultation and training to other community providers in the areas of working with trauma.  

The partnership

Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) York Region/South Simcoe was recently able to secure federal funding to launch programs to support the mental and physical health of refugees and newcomers. As such, CMHA recognized that many newcomers to our region were coming from war-torn areas, and that people experience difficult issues related to settlement in Canada often leading to further stress. This partnership between CMHA, Cedar Centre and the Welcome Centres is so important because it offers a wrap-around, holistic service to refugees and newcomers. It combines the expertise of mental health providers such as CMHA and Cedar Centre with the knowledge of the settlement process that the Welcome Centres possess. By improving the partnership and access that the settlement services have with the mental health services of CMHA and Cedar Centre, our community response to the needs of newcomers and refugees will be better met.   

The program

The Newcomers’ Health and Well-Being Program, which includes CMHA of York Region/South Simcoe, Cedar Centres, and the Welcome Centres of York Region, was established to fill a gap in the services to refugees and newcomers to our region. York Region/South Simcoe is experiencing much growth in the numbers of newcomers and refugees settling in our area, and access to mental health and health care has been lacking for these unique populations. This joint program fills this yawning gap in service provision for our newcomer and refugee communities. CMHA felt that offering a Trauma-specific component to the program would help the program to have a more holistic service to refugees and newcomers. Therefore, CMHA invited Cedar Centre, as a respected and innovative centre, to come on board and provide the trauma-specific component of the program.  

The program will support the mental health of our newcomers and refugees by providing culturally-appropriate services that will focus on the strengths of our clients. We will offer services that will serve not to pathologize our clients, but support them as they continue the daunting task of adjusting to life in Canada. We are able to offer a variety of mental health supports to deal with aspects such as anxiety, depression, managing stress, trauma, improving access to psychiatric services (if needed) and supporting other mental health concerns. The program features mental health therapists, groups and workshops to provide support and psychoeducation to clients who indicate a need to help with improving their mental health and functioning. The program also features a nurse practitioner who will be able to address any health concerns that the clients might indicate. The program is delivered in partnership with Welcome Centres, and, as such, our services will be delivered, when needed, though the context of the Welcome Centres, helping to improve the access of refugees and newcomers to our support.  

We would like to see other such partnerships occur across sectors to provide a more holistic service to newcomers and refugees, to ensure that these populations have access to help across the country, when needed. Hopefully our program can inspire other communities to unite to provide a wrap-around approach service to support our newcomers and refugees to ensure their access to services and promote their well-being as they adjust to life in Canada.

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