East York’s Abiona Centre receives federal funding for mental health support in the Black community

Abiona Centre for Infants and Early Mental Health in East York is located on Broadview Avenue. An announcement of federal government funding of more than $300,000 was made at the centre on Friday, March 10. Photo by Xeena Jawad.

By AMARACHI AMADIKE, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Toronto-Danforth MP Julie Dabrusin and Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, and Associate Minister of Health Carolyn Bennett have announced that the federal government is releasing nearly $3 million in funding for mental health support in the Black community.

The announcement was made on Friday, March 10, at the Abiona Centre for Infants and Early Mental Health in East York, one of six Toronto organizations that will be receiving a share of the funds.

The funding is part of a previous commitment to provide $100 million in support for those most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Supporting mental health and well-being ensures that those who face systemic barriers have access to the resources they need to thrive,” said Dabrusin.

The Abiona Centre, formerly known as Massey Centre and Humewood House, is a client-centred infant and early childhood mental health organization located on Broadview Avenue.

The organization, a registered charity, supports pregnant and parenting adolescents between the ages 13 and 25 — providing assistance to more than 2,500 mothers and babies each year The centre will receive exactly $399,674 in funding from the federal government that will be used to develop a home-visiting approach using community resources.

“The mental health of young Black mothers has been disproportionally affected by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Abiona Centre’s President & CEO Ekua Asabea Blair in a news release about the federal funding.

“We need to intervene now to stop the negative impacts of the pandemic from being passed down to their children.”

Blair said the funding from the Public Health Agency of Canada will promote positive mental health, resilience, and educational attainment and outcomes for Black adolescent mothers and their children.

Abiona Centre’s funds will be used to “develop a home-visiting approach using community resources.”

Blair added in a response to Beach Metro Community News after last Friday’s announcement that the federal funding will allow the centre to expand its programs and services for young mothers.

“With this funding, we are testing a home-visiting model to promote positive mental health, resilience, and educational attainment and outcomes for Black adolescent mothers and their children. It is allowing us to expand our programs to reach some of the hardest-to-serve young mothers,” she said.

“Families are supported in their own homes and schools by our staff to offer them the programs and services they need to stay in school, find housing, improve their mental health, and access health care and other critical resources. This work can and will change the trajectory for future generations of Black families.”

Other organizations receiving funding include York University ($400,000); the Ghanaian Canadian Association of Ontario ($398,095); Black Coalition for AIDS prevention ($377,840); and Moyo Health and Community Services ($398,831).

Although the funding was announced during Black Mental Health Week and focussed towards the Black community, St. Michael’s Hospital in downtown Toronto will be receiving the lion’s share of the funds at $1,111,834.

According to the federal government’s press release, St. Michael’s Hospital will be using the funds to “support the mental health and well-being of families in eight large racial and cultural-linguistic groups in Canada”.

These include Black-African-Caribbean, Arabic, Mandarin, Cantonese, Tagalog, Latinx, Inuktitut, and Ukrainian groups.

“The project will also share culturally-relevant, evidence-based parenting resources for healthcare professionals to provide to their patients to promote mental health and well-being during the COVID-19 pandemic and recovery,” read the press release.

Last week’s announcement is an extension of a previous one from the Government of Canada in which they pledged $198.6 billion over 10 years to improve health care services for Canadians.

On Feb. 7, the Government of Canada said that it plans to work with all Canadian regions on shared health priorities in order to improve integrated health care for Canadians.

This includes, but is not limited to, improved access to quality mental health and substance use services. The focus of this new funding is to promote mental health and mental illness prevention in an attempt to curb the rising demands on the health care system.

For quick mental health assistance, anyone in need can access the Wellness Together Canada portal, or call 1-866-585-0445 or text WELLNESS to 741741 (adults) or 686868 (youth).

Kids Help Phone is also available 24/7 with e-mental health service offering free, confidential support to young people in English and French.

For more information on the Abiona Centre for Infants and Early Mental Health, please go to https://www.abionacentre.ca/

Amarachi Amadike is a Local Journalism Initiative Reporter for Beach Metro Community News. His reporting is funded by the Government of Canada through its Local Journalism Initiative.

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