In 1956, CMHA Kelowna was formed by volunteers to support people with mental health challenges in an ongoing, weekly and non-institutional manner. By 1962, the Okanagan’s first resident Psychiatrist was appointed and the Kelowna General Hospital opened a seven-bed Psychiatric Unit. Volunteers from CMHA Kelowna visited the Unit every other weekday to bring the patients home comforts, facilitating in their recovery.
In an effort to bring awareness of mental health issues to the community, the organization launched an adult education program at the Kelowna Night School in 1967. It also introduced a series of lectures and meetings for women. The power of shared experiences, and open conversations converging around both mental health and illness remain a focus for the organization today. A host of individual and group workshops, as well as self-help offerings aim to support a mentally healthy Kelowna at work, home and play.
In 1972, CMHA facilitated the Discovery Club, a gathering place for seniors at St.David’s church. And in 1984 the Oasis Club set up in the Parkinson Recreation Centre to create support systems for underemployed youth. The Wellness Development Centre (WDC) situated in CMHA headquarters (site of the former church) now fosters a similar sense of belonging for members of its community. The WDC features activities like drop-in yoga and art classes and hosts programs like Peer Support Services and Kitchen Connections.
Over the next 40 years, CMHA Kelowna expanded its role from providers of supportive services to true guardians and champions of safe living environments and fair treatment. It opened two group living homes, McNair House in 1970, and Davies House in 1986. Today, CMHA Kelowna continues to advocate for access to affordable, safe and secure housing with direct housing projects, Willowbridge Supportive Housing, Rosemead Apartments, and Heath House Supportive Housing. Since 1984 it has also delivered experiential training programs to help people develop the skills to find and maintain gainful employment. Early landscaping, painting and administrative opportunities made way for a food service operation and thrift shop in 1991.
CMHA Kelowna is also the operator and lead agency for an integrated youth and family clinic, Foundry Kelowna, unites partner organizations to provide coordinated services addressing the primary care, mental health, substance use, counselling and social service needs of youth aged 12 – 24 and their families. Foundry Kelowna supports young peoples’ wellbeing by intervening early so youth can find the help they need, when they need it. For more information www.foundrybc.ca/kelowna.
Given one in five Canadians will experience a mental health problem at some point in their life, helping people to get the right level of support, at the right time is mission-critical for CMHA. With a mentally healthy Kelowna in mind, staff, volunteers, partners, donors and funders continue to co-create innovative new solutions that are informed by more than six decades of formative work in the community.