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CAMH is helping clients become Money Wi$e

14 January 2016
Author: Chloe Stanois
The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health’s (CAMH), Social Determinants of Health Service recently launched a financial literacy program called Money Wi$e, an initiative that addresses the financial literacy needs of the hospital’s clients. Funded by a TD Financial Literacy Grant Fund grant, the Money Wi$e program empowers clients on their road to recovery by equipping social workers, therapists and other clinicians with what they need to become financial literacy trainers using a train-the-trainer model. Once they’ve completed an interactive computer exercise coupled with comprehensive guides that take a more hands-on approach, clinicians can support their clients in building knowledge and skills on the basics of income tax, debt management, savings, and budgeting.
“When it comes to people living with mental illness, a disproportionate number live in poverty,” says Dev Chopra, Executive Vice-President of Clinical Programs at CAMH. “Poverty, in turn, can be a significant risk factor for poor physical and mental health. CAMH advocates for a number of important poverty reduction strategies, including the establishment of a Basic Income Guarantee and a National Housing Strategy. Complementary to our systemic work on poverty reduction is our work educating our patients on managing their own finances effectively.”

CAMH clinicians and social workers try out the teaching software.

People living with a mental illness may face a range of challenges managing their finances and accessing financial services. Some of these challenges include: feeling a lack of control over their finances, mistrust and/or negative experience with financial institutions, lack of identification for opening and managing accounts, higher use of cheque cashing services, and being vulnerable or dependent on a family member or trustee who manages their finances. 
Freddy Lara, a Social Worker in CAMH’s Complex Mental Illness (CMI) Program has seen the way financial literacy can positively impact those living with mental illness, first hand. “I had an inpatient client who always found himself low on money,” he explained. “After doing a straightforward budget together, he realized how much money he was spending on cigarettes and made a commitment to spend less. Having the means to enjoy other activities was satisfying for him.”  
“It’s exciting to see financial empowerment being implemented within the public health sector,” said Adam Fair, Director of Programs at Prosper Canada. “Prosper Canada commends CAMH for leading the way by developing a program to equip clinicians with the resources necessary to help their clients achieve financial stability.”  
The Money Wi$e program is an important step in addressing the financial well-being of people living with mental health issues. What other steps can be taken to make our financial system more inclusive? If you know of other programs working to address this issue, feel free to share them here.

Feature photo caption: Lead developers of the Money Wi$e program play a financial literacy themed version of Snakes and Ladders. This is an example of an approachable, hands-on approach a clinician can take when teaching a client. (L to R): Tara Pearcey, Occupational Therapist, SDH Service; Freddy Lara, Social Worker, CMI; Jenifer Kim, Occupational Therapist, SDH Service; and Reena Sirohi, Social Worker 2, SDH Service.


Chloe Stanois is the Marketing and Communications Officer at Prosper Canada. Chloe is passionate about using storytelling to share Prosper Canada's vision and connect with others. She has a communication studies and sociology degree from Wilfrid Laurier University, and a corporate communications and public relations post-graduate certificate from Centennial College.

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