The Cowichan Valley branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association has been placed on probationary status for one year after an independent investigation.
A press release from the B.C. Division of the CMHA said the parent organization will oversee a plan aimed at improving accountability, transparency and service delivery at the Cowichan Valley branch.
The action comes after CMHA BC received a report from Joanna Gislason, a Victoria lawyer who conducted an investigation into three complaints about the Cowichan Valley branch received in late 2019.
The Cowichan Valley branch requested an external investigation which CMHA BC responded to immediately.
The first complaint alleged discriminatory and unfair treatment of a tenant, and the second complaint was made by a former board member and alleged unfair treatment and a failure to engage in a respectful resolution process.
The third complaint was broad in nature and expressed general concerns about mismanagement at the branch.
But concerns that the Cowichan Valley branch is not spending funds appropriately or not accounting for spending properly were not substantiated by the investigation and the branch was compliant with accounting requirements, including completing an annual audit and posting its audited financial statements and annual report publicly on its website, according to the report.
“However, based upon the findings of the investigation, the branch can do more to actively communicate with funders and community stakeholders while developing processes to facilitate greater transparency,” the report said.
As part of her investigation, Gislason interviewed 28 witnesses and reviewed detailed records and information.
Her report goes on to identify a number of issues at the Cowichan Valley branch regarding governance, management, and operations within the branch’s housing programs.
The report presents a number of findings with recommendations to bring the branch into compliance with policies and CMHA values.
They include that the branch’s housing policies and practices undermined and interfered with a tenant’s security, the conduct of two staff members was inappropriate and interfered with a tenant’s security and the branch’s housing program would benefit from a thorough review and redesign.
“We have now completed the external investigation and we are fast-tracking solutions to ensure that the branch adequately responds to the problems identified in the findings,” said Jonny Morris, CEO of CMHA BC Division
“It is also important to emphasize the report also found that the branch provides incredibly important services, thanks to a group of skilled, compassionate, and hard-working staff. These recommendations will ensure that care reaches those who need it.”
The press release said the CMHA’s provincial office is satisfied that current board members at the branch cooperated fully with the investigation and will take the next critical steps to respond to the investigation’s findings and recommendations.
During the year on probation, the provincial office of the CMHA will oversee the branch’s plan to implement all of the recommendations included in the investigation report.
A failure to satisfactorily implement the plan could result in the branch no longer being able to use the “Canadian Mental Health Association” name.
“Going forward, priority will be placed upon providing training related to board governance, cultural safety and humility, a review of all housing programming, dispute resolution, and ongoing transparency with all key accountability and operational documents,” the press release said.
“Further, the branch will review all of its policies related to its services to ensure that they do not conflict with provincial legislation. To improve the delivery of services to people across the province, the recommendations included in this report will be shared with CMHA branches across the province.”