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Canadian Jewish News: quotes by Jack Kugelmass December 08 , January 09

Canadian Jewish News – Jack Kugelmass quoted Dec. 08

People with mental health issues need more resources By SHERI SHEFA, Staff Reporter

Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Part 1 of this three-part series, which appeared in the Dec. 18 issue of CJN, examined the stigma associated with people who suffer from mental illness and the lack of attention given to this problem in the Toronto Jewish community.

TORONTO — There aren’t enough homes or services available for the mentally ill in the Jewish community, compared to the number of people who need help, said “John,” who has a brother with schizophrenia.

Richard Cummings
“I don’t think anyone even has an idea of the number of mentally ill in the community because it is just not a priority,” he said.

Rochelle Goldman-Brown is the executive director of Chai Tikvah Foundation, a Jewish support service that provides housing for psychiatrically disabled adults, as well as support services for people living on their own.

“We’ve been around for 25 years. We have a group home, a triplex, and we run a social recreational program once a week out of the National Council of Jewish Women,” Goldman-Brown said.

“But we’re basically a band-aid for the need of the community.”
She explained that the group home located in North York, Ont., has eight residents who receive 24-hour support.

Last year, the foundation, which employs 15 social workers, purchased a triplex, which has space to house eight more residents, who are visited by one staff member on a regular basis.

Chai Tikvah, which works to have its residents eventually move into more independent living, has also been allotted 15 apartments in a new complex being built at the Joseph and Wolf Lebovic Jewish Community Campus in Vaughan, which will provide housing for 18 adults who require less supervision.

The weekly social recreation program for residents and others in the community is called Club Simcha. Funded by UJA Federation of Greater Toronto, the program attracts 20 to 25 people each week.

But John, whose Holocaust survivor parents have been taking care of his schizophrenic adult brother for his entire life, spoke to The CJNon the condition of anonymity about the lack of services for the Jewish community.

“If we look at the numbers of the people who are mentally ill – and that is a broad term that can include people who are depressed – the numbers are just totally out of whack. There aren’t only 12 mentally ill people in the Toronto Jewish community that need services,’ he said, referring to the small number of people Chai Tikvah is able to support.

“So, either they are living on the streets or are abandoned, living in shelters; or parents like mine are suffering and dealing with the consequences,” John said, adding that his family is considering Toronto’s Baycrest Centre to provide his brother with long-term care, but the waiting list is years long.

As a result of the lack of space in Jewish housing, Goldman-Brown said that many Jews are living in non-Jewish group homes.
“We get a lot of calls from those people saying, ‘They have crosses here,’ or ‘They don’t have kosher food,’ and it’s a struggle,” she said.

“With the number of calls we get and the number we are able to actually address, it’s really quite sad.”

Goldman-Brown added that Chai Tikvah does not promote its services because there are only so many beds and it’s not able to fully address the needs of the community.

“Number 1, they have to fit our criteria to get in, and number 2, the waiting list is usually a few years,” she said.

“Rachel,” who has a son who suffers from schizophrenia who currently lives at Chai Tikvah, said she learned about the home by chance -– before she even knew her son would need it – when a friend came to visit her when she was sitting shivah for her late husband. The friend suggested that she donate all her excess food from the shivah to Chai Tikvah.

After her son spent months in and out of hospitals and she was faced with the option of sending her son to live in non-Jewish group homes in small Ontario towns such as Woodstock and Lindsay, she suddenly remembered hearing about Chai Tikvah. She managed to get her son into the home after one of the residents moved out to live more independently.

“But what about all the others who are waiting to get into a home?” she asked.
“Heavens knows I’ve talked to so many people, and as soon as I start talking about it, they start telling me about a family member.”

Rachel said it was important for her son to live at Chai Tikvah because “he had a strong Jewish upbringing, and I wanted him close to the family. He has no one else. He’s single, he never married. He’s got his aunts and uncles here, his brother, his mother. What was he going to do in Woodstock or Lindsay?”

Although Rachel is encouraged by the allotment of 15 apartments in the Lebovic centre, she said Chai Tikvah is being asked to raise $250,000 for administrative fees, which she thinks will be difficult.

Despite the fact that there aren’t many group home options for mentally ill Jews, there are programs available for those who suffer from mental illness, and their caregivers.

Devora Schwartz-Waxman, the Family Caregiver Connections co-ordinator at the Circle of Care, a non-profit provider of in-home health and support services, spoke to The CJN about a new initiative to help people who are caring for aging or ailing family members.

Seven agencies, Circle of Care, Baycrest, Bernard Betel Centre for Creative Living, Chai Tikvah Foundation, Jewish Family & Child, Jewish Immigrant Aid Services Toronto and Reena, have joined forces to create the Family Caregiver Connections Project.
Schwartz-Waxman said one aspect of the project is to help elderly parents who care for adult children to prepare for a time when they are no longer able to do so.

“We work with caregivers who have children who have mental health issues and help them prepare for [the problems that come with] aging. The other end is people who are caring for seniors who have mental health issues,” she said.

“There is a lot of planning if the parents have kept their kids at home all along, and now the mother who has looked after the child all along has dementia and the child is in their 60s and is starting to have age-related health issues – it becomes a very complicated situation.”

She said the project provides assistance to aging caregivers by encouraging them to take time out for themselves without feeling guilty, and helping them with financial planning.

Jack Kugelmass, a social worker who has experience in the Jewish community, said that UJA Federation also has a task force on inclusion, which operates out of the Miles Nadal Jewish Community Centre.
“Federation has an inclusion initiative in an effort to include diverse groups who otherwise are disenfranchised and may not feel included. I’m talking about people with developmental needs and physical handicaps,” Kugelmass said.

Jewish Family and Child (JF&C) executive director Richard Cummings and JF&C supervisor and social worker Fay Geitzhals spoke about programs their organization provides to people who suffer from any number of challenges.

The Toronto Jewish Healing Project, which operates in JF&C’s chaplaincy service, tries to help people cope with illness and despair and to further a sense of well-being, comfort and guidance through the support of the Jewish community.

But Cummings said that while the project isn’t exclusive to helping those coping with mental illness, there are other services, such as individual counselling for the mentally ill.

“We have programs ranging from individual counselling to a wonderful service we provide called the Bagel Club, which is a once weekly social opportunity for a wide range of adults ranging from 20 to 70 who come in and break bread together,” Cummings said. “It really is a life line for people who are terribly socially isolated, marginalized and stigmatized.”
Geitzhals said that the 20 to 25 people who come to the Bagel Club each week are not so different from others.

“They just have another issue to deal with in life. It would make a big difference if people were to know what it’s like,” she said. “At the end of the day, if we’re a community that can be more inclusive, if we’re a community that can be more compassionate, you make more room for people and they fit in better,” Cummings said. We wish we could do more,” Geitzhals said.

Part 3 of this series will examine the ways in which the Jewish community can work to improve the resources available for the mentally ill and their families.

For information, call Schwartz-Waxman at 416-635-2900, ext. 413; Goldman-Brown at 905-886-6520; or Cummings at 416-638-7800.

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Canadian Jewish News – Jack Kugelmass reports….

By SHERI SHEFA, Staff Reporter

Wednesday, 07 January 2009

Awareness, funding needed to fight mental illnesses

Part 2 of this three-part series appeared in The CJN Jan. 1. It examined the limited number of Jewish resources available for patients with mental health difficulties and the pressure felt by the few Jewish organizations in the Greater Toronto Area, which are overwhelmed by the demand for services.

Rochelle Goldman-Brown, the director of Chai Tikvah Foundation
Sufficient funding to enable Jewish agencies to address the needs of people in the community who have mental illnesses is crucial, said Jack Kugelmass, a social worker in the Jewish community. 

“We really need to educate our community like any other community about mental illness,” he said.

“John,” who spoke to The CJN on the condition of anonymity about his frustrations concerning his Holocaust survivor parents who have been caring for his schizophrenic adult brother for his entire life, pointed to the way JACS (Jewish alcoholics, chemically dependent persons and significant-others) created a campaign that broke down the misconceptions that Jews don’t suffer from addiction. John said a similar campaign to enlighten people about the existence of mental illness among Jews is also needed.

“We need a campaign to say that there are people who suffer within the community and [present] what resources are available – if there are any,” John said.
“I think that if the parents and families themselves would meet others and share experiences, they would benefit from that. They would know that they are not suffering alone.”

Devora Schwartz Waxman, the Family Caregiver Connections co-ordinator at Circle of Care, a non-profit provider of in-home health and support services said, “When caregivers call me and they need respite, they need a break. It would be great if I could suggest a place within the Jewish community where their kids could go.”

Rochelle Goldman-Brown, the director of Chai Tikvah Foundation, which runs a kosher group home in the city, said there have been support groups for family members for years, but only for family members of clients.

“I think somewhere down the road we’re going to look at expanding that to people in the community at large. People often feel very alone with this. It’s just a way for people to get together with others who suffer from the same problem,” Goldman-Brown said.

She added that they have also begun to write letters to rabbis of the congregations in the GTA asking them to speak about the issue from the pulpit and to include information about mental health issues in their bulletins.

“We need to think of ways to link families together, to create opportunities for people who are fairly high functioning and living at home to have broader social outlets within the Jewish community,” Kugelmass said.

“I’m talking about programming specific to the needs of young Jewish men and women who are tied to Jewish values. It needs to be discussed in our institutions and they should ask themselves, ‘How can we give them a voice?'”

“Rachel,” who also spoke to The CJN on condition of anonymity to protect the identity of her schizophrenic son who is a Chai Tikvah resident, said the Jewish community simply hasn’t done enough to address the issue.

“We have such a vibrant Jewish community. We have 200,000 Jews in the community who support wonderful things like Baycrest and Reena and Zareinu, and I don’t want to take away from them, but this is where we would like to be. There is such a need for assistance and housing in a Jewish environment, in a Jewish setting for young adults,” Rachel said.

“We do need to do some serious fundraising. The money is out there. We have one of the most affluent Jewish communities in the world.”
She added that it is important to get through to UJA Federation of Greater Toronto to get more funding.

“I understand Israel is very important, and I don’t want to take away from Israel. Jewish education is very important. If you’re not going to educate young Jewish people, you might as well close the synagogue doors, but this issue also needs the support of the Jewish community.”

Jewish Family and Child (JF&C) executive director Richard Cummings and JF&C supervisor and social worker Fay Geitzhals agree that appealing to the compassion and judgment of the community is the key to improving the situation.

“People are learning. The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health and the Globe and Mail… have done a great deal to bring the story to the surface, and I think people are much more understanding and compassionate,” Cummings said.

“I think we are ready as a community to evolve into being more supportive. The de-institutionalization that took place decades ago has left a significant cohort of individuals with mental illness just wandering through the community. We shouldn’t assume that the community won’t step up. Maybe we can look more optimistically and hopefully at our raising consciousness and sensitization and consider that the community is ready to step up to the plate.”

Geitzhals, who thinks that mental illness in the Jewish community is a well-hidden problem, said that “it’s similar to any of the other issues that we’ve raised in the Jewish community like woman abuse or addiction, in that once we raise awareness and put it out there, the community is ready to take a look at it and to acknowledge that it exists and create a system for it.

She suggested that one of the services needed to properly care for the mentally ill is a good trusteeship program.

If an elderly couple is concerned about an adult child who is living with them and they don’t know how to care for their child once their own health begins to deteriorate, she could help the parents and the child become more independent, Geitzhals said.

In her capacity at JF&C, she would take over trusteeship or help them get a trustee, perhaps a sibling, and then investigate what resources might be available for the child to remain in the home or move to a different setting such as a group home.

“Rather than saying you’ve done wrong, I think together we can envision a way of doing right. There is a different nuance there. It doesn’t have to be a battle,” she said.

“We as an agency are doing our utmost, but more help is needed and more resources are needed,” Cummings said.

For information, call JF&C at 416-638-7800 or contact Goldman-Brown at rochelle@chaitikvah.org or 905-886-6520

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