A local mental health advocate and fundraiser is not going to let a “frustrating and disappointing” situation with the Foundation of the Chatham-Kent Health Alliance deter her from her efforts to help her community.
“I am not done helping to raise money and awareness for mental health initiatives in our community,” says Elisha Banks, organizer of the very popular Music For The Mind concerts and connected fundraisers.
Banks recently shared her dismay at the realization that the near $92,000 she had raised for the CKHA’s Inpatient Mental Health Unit over the past three years was not being used as she had hoped – or at all.
Banks says the intention was for funds to be allocated to much-needed supplies for patients utilizing the mental health unit. Instead, she recently found out the donations were still sitting untouched in a bank account.
President and Executive Director of the CKHA Foundation, Mary Lou Crowley says she cannot speak about the specifics of donors or donations beyond what’s in the public domain, due to privacy and confidentiality reasons.
Crowley adds that the Foundation does not determine the timing regarding the flow of funds from the Foundation to the hospital.
“This is determined by the hospital. The Foundation does not set hospital priorities, we merely communicate them to donors,” says Crowley. “I can say unequivocally and with certainty that we are in constant communication with all our donors related to their gifts, the use of their funds and the impact of their generosity.”
Banks alleges there was in fact a complete lack of communication with hospital and foundation staff in this regard, after first donating $30,000 for the unit in February of 2019. This was followed by nearly $62,000 in 2021.
Elisha was told one of the reasons the funds had been left sitting and not allocated to supplies for the ward is because the hospital can’t use fundraised dollars to buy supplies. Those items are included in the operational budget and may conflict with governance and funding requirements.
Banks says she understands there are policies and procedures to be considered, but maintains any communication in this regard was long overdue. Although she was given an agreement for Music For The Mind fundraising, Banks says it was very generic and did not indicate where funds would or would not be funneled.
It wasn’t until she visited a friend utilizing the unit this past summer that Banks realized there were no visible signs of improvement in the supply department.
“What really bothers me, is that no one at the Foundation or anyone from the senior team at the hospital ever informed me our funds weren’t going where they were intended,” she says. “Not once in two years. Both transparency and accountability to me as the donor should have been seen as a priority in this situation but, in my opinion, I was given neither.”
The concept for the Music For The Mind fundraisers came after Elisha’s own experience as a patient of the mental health unit. Banks says she immediately realized how integral the department was to the community and how helpful the staff was to her and others. It was during her own stay that Banks also realized staff members were helping purchase some of these supplies out of their own pocket.
After several meetings with foundation and hospital senior staff members trying to rectify and understand the situation, Banks opted to part ways with the foundation and mental health unit.
She alleges that in one of those early meetings, a senior staff member of the mental health unit criticized Banks for embarrassing the hospital by making the public aware that staff members were helping with the purchase of supplies.
Lori Marshall, CEO of the Chatham-Kent Health Alliance says the CKHA was not previously aware that hospital staff was purchasing supplies out of pocket. The CKHA says that situation has been reviewed and resolved and an extra $10,000 per year has been added to the hospital budget to help supply issues. The Alliance is planning a good news announcement, coming soon to recognize Elisha, her work and her commitment to the mental health unit and the community.
Banks appreciates the gesture, but says this isn’t about any kind of recognition.
Despite this experience, Banks says she will continue her commitment to the cause and will re-focus her energy moving forward.
“I am determined to use the Music for the Mind fundraiser to raise money for another mental health initiative in our community,” she says. “I want people to know that the Music For The Mind Fundraiser will be back. I will pick myself back up, dust myself off, and find a way to rebuild.”