Ontarians should be deeply saddened by the recent closure of Northumberland Community Counselling Centre (NCCC), as is Family Service Ontario. As a community-based counselling agency and a member of Family Service Ontario, NCCC provided outstanding service to 1,000 individuals and families each year. Family Service Ontario represents 44 agencies that reach thousands of Ontarians with a variety of family focused mental-health and wellness services. This includes individual, couple, and family therapy, which are part of our core services. These services, which typically have minimal wait times and are accessible to all Ontarians, use diverse funding including provincial government, sliding-scale fees, and charitable donations. This unique funding model has created efficient and resilient organizations that play a vital role in the social-service ecosystem.
So, what happens when we’re gone? What will this mean to Cobourg and surrounding communities? The government funded programs provided by NCCC will live on through other local agencies. The individual, couple, and family therapy program will cease to exist. This is a significant loss to families without the means to pay the full fee for service ($120+/hour). Among those who do not have the means to pay are the most marginalized people of our community and often fall through the gaps in care within our social-service system.
People who have a specific issue that fits within the eligibility criteria of government-funded programs may not see a difference in their community should a family service agency not exist. People who have the means to pay full fees for service through a private therapist may not see a difference. But there are so many people who do not fit into eligibility criteria, who require an alternative approach to meet their needs, and/or who do not have the means to pay $100-200/hour. This is especially challenging in remote and rural communities where there are fewer service options.
So, what does this really mean? Who are the people that will be affected? Why should it matter? Here is a selection of examples, among thousands of stories, to demonstrate the role that family service agencies play in communities across Ontario.
- Eva is a survivor of childhood trauma who is concerned about how her past trauma is impacting her marriage and her parenting. She received a limited number of therapy sessions to help stabilize her, but she now wants more intensive therapy for herself, as well as couple therapy.
- Daniel witnessed his father abuse his mother, and as the conflicts in his relationship increase, he fears the cycle will continue. He wants help, so he does not end up like his father — with criminal charges and losing his family.
- Josh and Riya have been struggling financially since Josh injured himself at work. Riya works full-time at minimum wage while caring for Josh and their three children. She is exhausted, and the situation has stressed their relationship. They are committed to keeping their family together and are ready for couple counselling.
- Mia has an intellectual disability and recently lost her mother, her only surviving family member. Her support workers have noted that Mia is fixated on this loss, and they no longer know how to help her. She is beginning to engage in self-harming behaviour.
Family service agencies are committed to creating wellbeing within individuals, couples, families, and communities through their family-centered, holistic, and professional interventions. For decades we have been filling the gaps in care, ensuring no one in our communities have been left behind.
Learn more about the family service agency in your community at familyserviceontario.org/members/. Support your family service agency through volunteering, donating, or helping spread the word about who we are and what we do. Help us ensure these vital services prevail in all communities across Ontario.