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CLH axes 32 jobs after decades of ‘starving’ from governments

‘Complex individuals who are at high risk for homelessness puts a significant strain on systems,’ says CLH Developmental Support Services CEO Johnson, as layoffs and closures loom
CLH Developmental Support Services at 283 King Street in Midland.

CLH Developmental Support Services will be laying off 32 employees next month.

CEO Dean Johnson confirmed to Wideupdates that after numerous requests for financial support from the province, layoffs were the only option for the agency that helps some of society's most vulnerable.

Whie the staffing cuts take effect July 26, funding shortfalls also mean one resident of Beacon House dual diagnosis transition rehabilitation housing program and two individuals at the Pineview dual diagnosis specialized treatment home, located in Penetanguishene, will be displaced

“I know those numbers sound low,” said Johnson, “but these are people that are not going to now have the opportunity to transition successfully into the community because of the void in their treatment.”

Whereas the Beacon House treatments can successfully transition a person at a minimum one-year timeframe, Johnson said that Pineview individuals could take additional years for their treatment plan, but the challenge would be continuing community support for their challenges.

“We have had people successfully complete treatment in both those locations who end up staying there much longer than necessary, because there continues to be a lack of suitable housing in the community for individuals with developmental disabilities,” said Johnson.

“We're currently working on finding alternative housing,” said Johnson. “We haven't confirmed what that looks like yet; they are at high risk for homelessness, and complex individuals who are at high risk for homelessness puts a significant strain on systems.”

Pineview Treatment Home was established in 2004 as a provincial program through the Community Networks of Specialized Care - Central East in collaboration with Mackenzie Health Centre for Behaviour Health Sciences. Beacon Transition House opened in 2013 through a joint initiative with the Ministry of Health and Long-term Care and the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services, and is offered in collaboration with Waypoint Centre for Mental Health Care.

The cuts follow years of reductions by CLH DSS to mitigate the lack of funding.

Although CLH has an annual operating budget of $26 million with 350 on staff, CLH DSS cut $1 million over the past two years in cost-containment initiatives in an attempt to continue operations; Johnson noted that Beacon had been run at a deficit for years as the program cost $850,000 to operate in 2023.

A letter from Johnson to the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services in April warned: “There are presently no remaining cost saving measures that can be undertaken except to reduce service and layoff staff.”

But Johnson said the ministry did nothing.

"I even offered them a short-term solution,” stated Johnson. “I said: ‘provide us with $250,000 for three months of interim funding to give you the time to figure this out.’ And they couldn't do that.

“As prepared as I was for this, I'm shocked that this actually is happening,” Johnson admitted.

He says his repeated attempts to work with the province fell on deaf ears as CLH DSS and similar organizations across the province have been “starved of the resources we need, just to keep the heating (and) lights on."

He noted that over the past 30 years, the cost of living has increased 60 per cent but that there have only been four per cent increases to base funding “and we’ve hit that melting point."

Johnson also reached out to Simcoe North MPP Jill Dunlop for assistance during a June 5 meeting, but had yet to hear back from her.

Dunlop wrote in an email to Wideupdates the government is investing $3.4 billion for developmental services and of that investment $2.2 billion funds supportive living services and supports, an increase of over $750 million from 2017-18.

"Ministry officials are working with CLH to identify their service pressures and strategies to manage them," she wrote.

"We share a common vision with people with developmental disabilities, families, and our sector, a vision where people with developmental disabilities are better supported to fully belong in their communities. I understand that Community Living Huronia– Developmental Support Services is connecting with the families impacted by this service change to plan for potential alternative supports knowing agencies make their own decisions on program delivery."

When asked if there was anything the community could do to come together to help support the organization, Johnson replied salvation was in the hands of the government.

“What we need is annualized long-term sustainable funding,” Johnson said. “A short-term solution at this point – now that we've started our layoff notification – isn't going to solve this. It now requires a long-term sustainable solution of about a million dollars annually. I think that's a lot to ask from our community, and we shouldn't expect our community to have to do that. This to me is a government shortfall.

“This is just the beginning of the title wave of program closures across the province,” Johnson cautioned. “I'm 34 years doing this. I never thought I'd be closing programs. I anticipated growth in our sector, not disintegration.”

CLH Developmental Support Services was charted in 1960 and incorporated as a charitable non-profit organization in 1966. For over 60 years, CLH has developed a long-standing history within the local North Simcoe community, then more recently, branching out into all of Simcoe County.

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Derek Howard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

About the Author: Derek Howard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Derek Howard covers Midland and Penetanguishene area civic issues under the Local Journalism Initiative, which is funded by the Government of Canada.
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