Individuals with lived-experience share their experiences to help others connect to local mental health services and supports

York Support Services Network (YSSN) has launched a new mental health support awareness campaign to help raise awareness around local supports available to people in crisis or who need help connecting to services for mental health and addictions in York Region and South Simcoe.  The campaign features local residents with lived-experience, support staff, and a compilation of personal experiences that highlight the positive impact local mental health supports have had on their lives in the hopes of helping others suffering from similar conditions.

“Call. Talk. Connect.” is the tagline for the initiative that highlights two of the agency’s core mental health services: Community Crisis Response, or 1-855-310-COPE, available 24/7 to people experiencing a crisis, as well as their family and friends, and Streamlined Access, an intake and referral service that connects people to supports for mental health and addictions.

“Many people simply don’t know how they can access local mental health support and they end up in emergency departments unnecessarily. We’re hoping this new initiative will help residents of York Region and South Simcoe become aware of local services and understand that mental health support is just a phone call away,” says Marie Lauzier, Executive Director of YSSN. “Last year we helped 11,142 people through their mental health crisis with the help of our Community Response Service, 1-855-310-COPE, and 1,600 individuals connected to mental health, addictions and other services through Streamlined Access. We hope to reach even more individuals this year.”

The campaign features a collection of impactful images and quotes collected from participants, and several anonymous experiences. By being visible and sharing their stories anonymously, participants are hoping anyone who sees or reads about the campaign will be able to relate to a story and feel empowered to seek support when they need it.

For Bonnie K., YSSN client and volunteer, she hopes that by sharing her experiences, she will be able to help others find support so that they can work towards better mental health. “Mental illness has torn my family apart. It has shattered dreams for generations. YSSN’s crisis line has been a lifeline for me. I want other people to learn about these valuable services so they can also live a more meaningful life.”

Are you experiencing a mental health crisis? Call 1-855-310-COPE (2673). Need help connecting to mental health and addiction services? Call Streamlined Access at 289-340-0348 or toll free at 1-844-660-6602.

To read a personal success story, visit our Call.Talk.Connect page.   Funding for this initiative has been provided by the Central Local Health Integration Network (CLHIN)

Media Contact:

Cathy Sampaio-Lepiane
Communications Supervisor
905.898.6455 ext. 2295 

Mental health and addictions crisis support available through emergency services in York Region

York Support Services Network (YSSN), in collaboration with York Regional Police and York Region Paramedic Services, have added a second Mental Health Support Team (MHST) to their roster of York Region crisis services.
The two teams, now serving both northern and southern York Region, offer support to individuals who call emergency services and are experiencing a mental health and/or addiction crisis.
The teams, which consist of a York Regional Police plain-clothes officer and YSSN crisis response worker, arrive on scene to help individuals in distress. York Region Paramedics, who may already be on scene to provide medical care, ensure the crisis worker is given time to complete their assessments, once paramedics have dealt with any immediate medical concerns. 
“The addition of this extra team couldn’t have come at a better time,” says Jean West, Director of Mental Health Services at YSSN. “Our initial team has had an immense impact in the community, serving 851 individuals from Central and Southern York Region last year. Adding another team will help us support even more individuals in need.”
Once the crisis has been stabilized, the team also provides follow-up support. Funding for the new team has been provided through the Central Local Health Integration Network.
“The care provided by the Mental Health Support Team to people in crisis in our region has made a significant impact on the outcomes in these situations,” said Chief Eric Jolliffe. “With this funding from the Central Local Health Integration Network, along with the assistance and partnership of YSSN and York Region Paramedic Services, we will be able to increase our ability to respond quickly and compassionately to members of our community in need, in crisis or dealing with mental health issues.”
In 2018, York Regional Police received 5,042 calls related to individuals experiencing emotional distress.
A York Region resident recounts her experience with the team when her brother was dealing with a crisis “…they [MHST team] listened to my needs, in what was a very stressful situation, offered insight to the process and systems and provided expert advice and assistance. My family, along with the team, police officers and paramedics persuaded my brother to go to the hospital for much needed help with his mental health issues. After a very long stay at the hospital my brother was discharged…he is on medication, seeing his phcysiatrist and coping extremely well.” 
The new team will cover Northern York Region, which includes the communities of Aurora, Newmarket, King, Whitchurch-Stouffville, East Gwillimbury and Georgina. The teams operate 12 hours per day, 7 days per week.  

Media Contact:

Cathy Sampaio-Lepiane
Communications Supervisor
905.898.6455 ext. 2295 


Eligible Adults with a Developmental Disability will get at least $5000/year in Direct Funding through the Passport Program

As part of the Ontario Budget, which was passed on May 8, 2018, the government is investing an additional $1.8 billion over the next three years in developmental services in Ontario. This represents the single largest investment to developmental services in the province’s history.

For the first time in the province’s history, every eligible adult with a developmental disability, including youth turning 18 and transitioning to adult services, will get at least $5,000 a year in direct funding through the Passport Program. 

For more information on the investment, click on the link below:

Transforming Developmental Services in Ontario

For more information on the Passport Program and how this investment will impact current recipients, visit our Passport page and Passport FAQ section. 

Passport Program Recipients will Receive 15% Increase to Funding in Response to Bill 148

The Ontario government recognizes that Bill 148 may impact expenses for people and families in receipt of direct funding. The Ministry of Community and Social Services is providing increased funding for people and families who receive direct funding through the Passport program so they can maintain their services.  For the fiscal year 2017/18, people and families will receive a pro-rated 15% increase and an annualized 15% increase in their funding as of April 1, 2018.

For individuals who recieve Passport funding through YSSN, more information from the Passport program about these changes will be made available in the coming weeks.


Peers Paying-it-Forward with New Community Resource Guide


YSSN staff and board members accepting the OTF recognition plaque with Chris Ballard, MPP Newmarket-Aurora and OTF volunteer, Loreta Pavese.
Peers being recognized for their work on the new guide with local dignitaries, OTF volunteer, and YSSN project coordinator.


AURORA – On Tuesday, November 7, York Support Services Network (YSSN) launched a new peer-led community resource guide, York Region on a Limited Budget: How to navigate the region when you don’t have a lot of money, in commemoration of its 35th Anniversary. The new guide was made possible thanks to a $74,500 Seed grant made last December by the Ontario Trillium Foundation (OTF). On Tuesday, local MPP Chris Ballard and OTF volunteer Loreta Pavese joined Aurora Mayor, Geoffrey Dawe, Markham Mayor, Frank Scarpitti, and Richmond Hill Mayor, Dave Barrow, at the launch to congratulate the peers who worked on the guide for their community service.

“I am proud to be part of a government that understands the importance of community services such as York Support Services Network. Through the Ontario Trillium Foundation, YSSN has been able to launch the new York Region on a Limited Budget community booklet. This booklet will provide many individuals within the community with the resources they need to meet their basic needs. I commend YSSN for their 35 years of community service, and for continuing to have such a positive impact on the people of York Region.” – Chris Ballard, MPP Newmarket-Aurora

The guide has been assembled by individuals with lived-experience in the hopes that their collective information and personal stories will pay-it-forward and help others navigate through similar situations. The guide includes numerous critical community resource listings, tips, personal stories of struggle and resilience and other helpful information for individuals struggling to make ends meet. Funds from the grant have helped cover the costs of a part time coordinator, marketing, supplies and materials and some needed administrative costs.

“After connecting with 130 service providers across York Region and surveying 325 individuals, nearly 50 percent said they have little or no money left over at the end of the month; that’s a significant amount of individuals who are not aware of, or able to, access the services they need. This new guide will help to change that,” said Silvia D’Addario, Project Coordinator for the initiative at YSSN.

The new community resource guide drew its inspiration from YSSN’s original edition, York Region on a Limited Budget, which has helped tens of thousands of individuals connect to much needed community resources over the last 20 years. 

“The premise of the guide has always been about inclusivity, accessibility, and bringing the community together; peers helping peers so that everyone can live a meaningful life. We are extremely grateful for the funding we received from the OTF, it has helped us breath life back into this important resource, so that it can continue to help those in need,” said Marie Lauzier, YSSN’s Executive Director.  

The guide will be made available at community service agencies across York Region by the end of the year, but will only be available in limited quantities due to funding restrictions. YSSN is hoping that the local community will help pay-it-forward by supporting the initiative so that it can continue to make the publication accessible and available to those in need going forward. 

For copies of the guide, or to help support the initiative, please contact Silvia D'Addario at 905.898.6455 or toll free at 1.866.257.9776 ext. 2284 or via email at  

Newmarket Home Depot Volunteers Give Bedrooms at YSSN's Short-Term Crisis Beds Program a Makeover

Image of Home Depot Volunteers getting ready to update bedrooms at YSSN's Short-Term Crisis Bed Program

AURORA, MAY 11, 2017 - On April 25, 2017, Newmarket Home Depot's group of staff volunteers—Team Depot—gave four bedrooms at York Support Services Network's (YSSN) Short-Term Crisis Beds Program a makeover. The group painted, updated light fixtures and blinds, and brought in new furniture to update the feel and look of the four bedrooms.
"It's so important that our clients feel welcomed, respected, and cared for when they visit our bed program. We are so grateful to Home Depot for helping us freshen up our bedroom spaces so that we can provide our clients with an inviting home environment that makes everyone feel like a special guest," said Jill Kellie, Community Crisis Response Worker.
Jill originally went into the Newmarket Home Depot for a paint donation, but was informed by staff that Home Depot could do more to help out the local community crisis program. 
"We support as many community projects for non-profit organizations as we can and our team of staff volunteers are always so excited to contribute to and give back to great community causes such as this one," said Eleonora Maniglia, Human Resources Manager for the Newmarket (17850 Yonge St.) Home Depot store. "Our staff volunteers come out on their own time and really put their hearts into revitalizing different projects."
YSSN's Community Crisis Short-Term Beds Program has over 120 individuals from York Region and South Simcoe visit their beds every year. The program provides individuals who are experiencing a mental health crisis and who need time away from their present living situation, a safe and supportive environment to help stabilize the crisis and help them assess and access needed resources.
"Many of the individuals that visit us haven't had a warm, inviting place to stay at for a while. The fact that they can have a warm shower, have access to food, and support from qualified staff that can help them with their recovery is so important. When they leave here they are so grateful for the experience. Home Depot's support and all of the community donations that we receive in the form of toiletries, welcome packages, sleepwear, etc., make such a positive difference in their lives," said Erick Roat, Community Crisis Response Supervisor. 
To find out how you, or your organization, can support YSSN's Short-Term Crisis Bed Program, please contact the Community Crisis Program at 905.953.5402 x. 0.  
Visit our Facebook page for more bedroom makeover images.

YSSN Receives OTF Grant to Help York Region Residents Living on Limited Incomes Find Local Resources 

AURORA, APRIL 3, 2017 - YSSN has received a grant from the Ontario Trillium Foundation (OTF) to assist with researching the development of a new communication tool that will help nearly 160,000 individuals living in poverty or on limited incomes across York Region, find the resources they need to help them achieve economic well-being and prosperity. 

The project was inspired by the popularity of YSSN’s current publication, York Region on a Limited Budget, a social service resource guide created in 1997 by YSSN clients (individuals with lived experience).  Over the last twenty years, the guide has helped thousands of individuals living on limited incomes find the resources necessary to meet their basic needs. 

“The majority of our clients live in poverty or low income environments, so it’s imperative that there is a means of connecting residents to resources. Although our current publication has been very successful, this project will help us increase awareness of and access to local services by meeting the growing technological and demographic needs of our community,” said Marie Lauzier, YSSN’s Executive Director.

Local residents, social service agencies, businesses, municipalities, and key stakeholders will be invited to attend various public consultations in the coming months to help find the most appropriate means of communicating services to consumers.  For more information about the project, to be a part of the consultation process or to become a partner, please contact Silvia D'Addario at 905.898.6455 or toll free at 1.866.257.9776 x. 2284 or via email at

Appreciation Awards Presented to Thirteen Recipients at YSSN's AGM

AURORA, OCTOBER 24, 2016 - Every year YSSN acknowledges the commitment and efforts of community members, board of directors and clients at its Annual General Meeting (AGM). This year, on October 24, 2016, we recognized the efforts of thirteen award recipients and the difference they have made within the community. 

Community Awards, which are awarded to individuals or organizations that have improved the quality of life for people with developmental disabilities or serious mental illness were awarded to: The Newmarket High School – Festive Giving Program for supporting approximately twenty families each year with gifts and holiday cheer; Eric Young from the Toronto Humane Society for providing food and needed pet services for clients who can't afford to care for their pets; World Citizens Junior Youth Group for creating gift bags of personal care products for distribution to YSSN clients; Nancy Lewis for the significant volunteer efforts that Nancy is involved in, and outside, of her role at YSSN; The Awesome Foundation for providing essential garments to youth who access the Crisis Bed Program; Elechia Barry-Sproule of Royal LePage At Your Service Realty for their fundraising efforts that have directly benefited 1.855.310.COPE and Blue Door Shelters; Wasim Jarrah of Newmarket Royal LePage for purchasing much needed toiletries and supplies for the bedrooms in YSSN’s Crisis Bed Program; Richard MacLeod of the Newmarket History Hound for their donations that were used to purchase supplies for the Crisis Bed Program; and Dr. Rob Murray of Murray Family Chiropractic whose donations were used to purchase much needed pajamas for the Crisis Bed Program.

Board of Director Volunteer Awards were awarded to: Michelle Marshall and Larry Palmer for their five years of service and Lina Baccarella for volunteering as a Board of Director for the past eight years.

Marilyn Nearing Award, an award dedicated to the memory of Marilyn Nearing, a past YSSN Board Member who was a tireless volunteer and community advocate for individuals living with mental illness was awarded to: Randee Korman for her courage, strength and perseverance, pushing herself daily in managing and coping with depression and anxiety and advocating for mental illness through her work as a volunteer member of CMHA’s Speakers Bureau, where she helps others by sharing her story.

YSSN's Jean West on the Honour Roll for the Minister's Medal!

AURORA, OCTOBER 21, 2016 - YSSN's very own, Jean West, Director of Mental Health, was acknowledged for her leadership in the mental health sector by being placed on the Honour Roll for the Minister's Medal Honouring Excellence in Health Quality and Safety awarded by the Minister of Health and Long-Term Care on October 20, 2016.

The 2016 Minister’s Medal is a competitive, annual program designed to recognize the excellent work that health care providers do every day. The Minister’s Medal provides an opportunity to recognize system champions who place the patient at the centre of the circle of care and have demonstrated exceptional work in collaboration and achieved sustainable results, while promoting system value and quality in the health care system.

For the last twenty-seven years, Jean has demonstrated her leadership within the mental health landscape by successfully expanding and implementing new collaborative programs that help connect individuals with a mental health or addiction issue to the services they need.

Support Needed for Celebratory Event for Individuals Recovering from a Mental Illness and/or Addiction

Committee Asking Local Community and Businesses for In-Kind Donations or Financial Support

AURORA, SEPTEMBER 1, 2016 -  For the last seven years, York Support Services Network (YSSN) along with its partners LOFT/Crosslinks Housing and Support Services, Canadian Mental Health Association for York Region and South Simcoe, (CMHA), Addiction Services of York Region (ASYR) and the Krasman Centre, have been celebrating the recovery efforts of individuals living with a mental illness and/or addiction by providing them with a venue to celebrate their recovery success, share knowledge and raise awareness during Mental Illness Awareness Week. For 2016, this special event is being held on October 5, 2016.

Every year the committee organizing the event comes under more financial pressures to find donations and sponsorship to provide attendees with a light luncheon and small door prizes and giveaway items for attendees.

“We really rely on our community and staff to help us find resources to help us put on this luncheon.  This event is something our clients really look forward to, it’s an opportunity for them to celebrate their achievements, and engage in a fun afternoon with their peers — something they are normally not able to do since recovering from a mental illness also brings along with it a multitude of financial strains,” said the committee member, Maria Cetnar, from YSSN.

This year’s event, entitled The Power of Peers, will celebrate the impact that peer support workers (individuals who have lived experience) have had on client recovery, and recognize individuals for their recovery efforts. The event is set to take place on October 5, at Seton Hall, in Newmarket, and will bring together over 100 individuals along with case workers, and peer support workers.

The Committee is asking the local community and business owners to help raise awareness for mental illness by supporting the event through in-kind donations (e.g., gift cards for food or clothing, and/or small toiletries), which will be distributed to individuals at the event. Financial donations in support of the event would also be greatly appreciated as it would assist in offsetting the costs of the event.

For more information on the types of donation items required and drop off locations, or to assist in sponsoring this event financially, please visit YSSN's website at or contact Ally Piercy at 905.898.6455 x. 2588 or via email at

Media Contact:

Cathy Lepiane
Communications Specialist

Innovative Housing Project for People with Developmental Disabilities in York Region, gets Green Light from Ontario Government

Why Wait? Collaborative Demonstration Project will look at innovative housing solutions outside of group/supportive housing in York Region

AURORA, MAY 27, 2016 – The Ontario Ministry of Community and Social Services announced their investment in a local collaborative housing demonstration project for people with a developmental disability yesterday. The “Why Wait?” project will enable eight York Region families to implement their unique housing plans for their adult children.  The project, a collaboration between York Region Lifetime Independent Facilitators, Montage Support Services and York Support Services Network, was created to give families the opportunity to plan more self-directed, creative and sustainable housing  options for their adult children, rather than simply waiting for government-funded group home and supported independent living vacancies; since waitlists for residential options continue to grow and families are struggling to find ways to take care of their adult children.

For participating families, this investment will mean that their adult child will be supported in a manner that is individualized to their specific needs, with community support and a lifetime facilitator that will help guide the family along the way.

"The project is innovative because it empowers the individual, with the assistance of families and network of support, to direct their own residential housing plan. The individual can choose where they would like to live, with whom they would like to live with and what support and services they want to engage with, in order live a meaningful life as a full citizen. The ongoing facilitation supports the individual and their network of support to ensure it remains sustainable. The facilitator is always there to help guide the individual, their families and their network of support and friendship,” said, Kelly Casey, York Region Lifetime Independent Facilitation.

The four housing models that have been developed and personalized by the eight participating individuals, their support networks and associate facilitators include; shared ownership, shared rental, live-in support, and retro-fitting a family home to accommodate the individual and eventual housemates.

“We are looking forward to working with our partners at York Region Lifetime Independent Facilitation and Montage Support Services on this innovative project. We all hope to find housing solutions that lead to more independence and a better place to live for adults with developmental disabilities. We are grateful to the Developmental Services Housing Task Force and the Ministry of Community and Social Services for giving the green light to this demonstration project,” said, Marie Lauzier, Executive Director, York Support Services Network.

Media Contact:

Cathy Lepiane
Communications Specialist

Project Contact:

Kelly Casey
York Region Lifetime Independent Facilitation

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