NEWS

Ontario family military resource centres fear closures

07/26/2012 04:17 EDT | Updated 09/25/2012 05:12 EDT
Military family resource centres in southern Ontario could be moved to Toronto in 2013, according to the executive director of the London centre.

Gary Willaert said a reduction of regular force personnel in Ontario could mean the closure of the branch in London and the one in Windsor, which just reopened after its funding was reinstated this year.

London oversees operations and provides support for centres and families from Windsor, to Goderich to Niagara.

"We struggle to provide service to all families in this large area now,” Willaert said. “It’d be a real challenge to do that from Toronto.”

Military family resource centres connect military and its family to health-care professionals in the community or run programs targeted specifically for military.

The centres provide personal development and community integration programs to members of the Canadian Armed Forces.

They also provide family separation and reunion programs; child and youth development and parenting support; and prevention and intervention support.

In 2011, Stefan Jankowski of Windsor, died of a prescription drug overdose. At that time, Jankowski's family said he didn't get the help he needed after returning from Afghanistan. He was depressed and unable to cope.

Jankowski suffered anxiety and depression and couldn't sleep. He was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and asked for help, but it came too late, his mother Georgina Duguay said at the time.

"It's not just medication that they need," she said in July 2011. "They need to talk to people.…They need the mental stability to live."

Campaign underway

Willaert said military personnel and their families are asked to write letters to and call the local centres or the Department of National Defence to encourage funding.

“I know they’re very much looking for the feedback from the people this affect,” he said of both.

Willaert said the London military family resource centre will apply for its annual funing in the fall and will know its fate in January.

The military family resource centre in Windsor closed three years ago due to a lack of funding.

A new $47,000 injection from the Department of National Defence means it will stay open to March 2013 at Tilston Armoury.

The centre puts on social events and gives families a place to turn to in times of need.

Renée Couvillon, a military wife, is the new Windsor coordinator.

"A lot of our people in this area are people whose sons or daughters are serving overseas with other units but their family is back here. We call them monthly to make sure everything is going okay while their member is away," Couvillon said.

Couvillon spent time in Halifax when her husband served out there.

"We had no family around. So having other military families is a good support network. It's a good way to connect with people because you do have people who understand what you're going through," Couvillon said. "It's important to have resources in Windsor, close to the families."

Master Corporal Owen Herold also welcomes the centre's return. He's with the Essex-Kent Scottish Regiment. Both Herold and his father served in Afghanistan.

"When you are overseas you are doing your job, you're focussing on what you're doing," Herold said. "There's always time to wonder. You never know what your loved one is doing. So that makes it very difficult."

According to Willaert, there are 32 military family resource centres in Canada.

CBC News reached a representative from Department of National Defence and inquired about the possibility of closures, a reduction of regular force personnel in Ontario and the number of military family resource centres in the country. The representative said the request is being research by one of its "subject matter experts" and answers were not immediately available.

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