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CAMH Stories Centre for Addiction
and Mental Health

CAMH is helping clients become Money Wi$e

New financial literacy program empowers clients on their road to recovery

Financial literacy – the ability to understand how money works in the world and how to manage it– is an important skill set that is health-promoting. In an effort to empower clients on their road to recovery, CAMH’s Social Determinants of Health (SDH) Service has launched Money Wi$e, an initiative that addresses the financial literacy needs of the hospital’s clients.

“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.”

Research evidence shows that financial literacy programs can improve financial inclusion for those in marginalized communities, increase housing stability for insecurely housed individuals and families, increase saving behaviours, and improve psychosocial outcomes in stress and self-efficacy. 

How it works

Using an innovative train-the-trainer model, Money Wi$e equips social workers, therapists and other clinicians with what they need to become financial literacy trainers.

CAMH clinicians and social workers try out teaching software
CAMH clinicians and social workers try out the teaching software. 

Once they’ve completed interactive computer exercise coupled with comprehensive guides that take a more hands-on approach, clinicians will feel comfortable teaching their clients the basics of income tax, debt management, savings, and budgeting.

Developers of program play financial literacy variation of Snakes and Ladders
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.

“Prior to its launch, a pilot of the program ran, to great success,” said Jenifer Kim, OT, SDH Service. “The team and I are thrilled that it’s now up and running.” 

A step in the right direction

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.” 

As someone with several years of experience working in banking before coming to CAMH, Freddy believes the Money Wi$e program will effectively teach clients skills necessary to make financially responsible decisions while in hospital or when living in the community.

“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.” 

Adam speaks to audience
Adam speaks to an audience at the launch event for Money Wi$e on Tuesday, November 24th.

Money Wi$e is the product of the TD Financial Literacy Grant Fund, co-founded with Prosper Canada in 2010. CAMH was fortunate to be one of the 140 community organizations selected for funding for innovation, research and development, and strategic program development in community-based financial literacy education.

“The Money Wi$e program is a great initiative and hopefully something that will be adopted CAMH-wide,” said Freddy.

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