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CMHA readies for grand opening

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Officials with the Canadian Mental Health Association of Winnipeg are hoping for a hearty welcome from the community when the agency hosts an official grand opening of its new headquarters next week.


On Mon., Oct. 1, the Winnipeg chapter of the national organization will open the doors to its new digs at 930 Portage Ave., the former CJOB building, with tours beginning at 10:30 a.m.


"We’d really like to see a lot of the community out," said executive director Nicole Chammartin.


"We tend to access resources closest to home and here we are right in the community. The CMHA has significant resources to offer and we would like to have a great relationship with the community."


In June 2011, Canstar News reported the CMHA was looking to move out of its Ellice Avenue location to meet a 25% growth in clientele.


The Winnipeg chapter receives about 2,000 visitors a year seeking various forms of treatment, rehab, education and referral services. The move to Portage Avenue in May is already paying dividends, Chammartin said.


"Definitely people are noticing we are here, which is what we wanted — to be more visible," she said.


"Our information referral line has been incredibly busy since we moved in."


With more than 12,000 square feet of space, the new HQ will complement a range programming for people with mental health issues as minor as anxiety and stress, and as major as depression and schizophrenia.


 "People don’t always realize all the programming we have," she said.


"We have lots of things available that really are for the general public, as well as support and services for people experiencing issues."


The opening will coincide with Mental Illness Awareness Week from Sept. 30 to Oct. 6, Chammartin said, adding Assiniboia MLA and Healthy Living Minister Jim Rondeau is expected to proclaim the week next week.


The organization recently received funding from the Canada Post Community Foundation and the United Way to develop a comprehensive volunteer program and youth mental health strategy.


Money from Canada Post will allow the organization to build a more robust volunteer recruitment and development program, said CMHA community educator Stacey Shule.


Shule oversees the agency’s 12 volunteers. More will be needed as the organization looks to expand its Tell Your Story program, in which those affected by mental illness speak to university classrooms and workplaces about their personal story.


"We’re seeing a lot more stress in the workplace so I’m getting a lot more requests for (those kind of speakers)," Shule said.


"Hearing that personal story is good in many ways and decreases the stigma around mental illness."


The United Way of Winnipeg will provide $60,000 in sustained yearly funding for the CMHA’s youth mental health strategy, which will also be built around speaker development, Chammartin said.


"We’re really focused on having people that can talk to youth about their own experience," Chammartin said, noting the agency is working with school divisions on the project.


"We want youth to get the message that you can live well with a mental health issue and that many people do."


The CMHA has operated nationally since 1918.


For more, visit www.cmhawpg.mb.ca.


Facebook.com/TheMetroWPG
Twitter: @metroWPG

matt.preprost@canstarnews.com

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