Trauma centre in Shubenacadie, N.S., fears lack of funding could force it to close

·3 min read
Margaret Mauger is a certified trauma counselling therapist and co-founder of the After Trauma Empowering Network in Shubenacadie, N.S. (Robert Short/CBC - image credit)
Margaret Mauger is a certified trauma counselling therapist and co-founder of the After Trauma Empowering Network in Shubenacadie, N.S. (Robert Short/CBC - image credit)

The co-founder of a sexual assault centre in Shubenacadie, N.S., says it will take a miracle to keep the doors open unless it can secure funding.

The After Trauma Empowering Network (ATEN) sent an email to its contacts Monday saying the centre specializing in supporting survivors of domestic violence, human trafficking, sexual assault and intergenerational trauma may be forced to close.

Margaret Mauger, also a sexual assault therapist with the network, says it has provided supports to more than 275 people across Nova Scotia since it was established in January 2020.

"It's critical, it's a critical situation," says Mauger.

She says she's been waiting since January to find out if the network will get a piece of the $2.3 million the Nova Scotia government plans to invest in expanding sexual assault and mental health support services. The province says it currently spends $925,000 a year to fund trauma therapy provided by seven community-based organizations.

Mauger has spent her career supporting survivors of trauma and says she now finds herself appealing for help so she can continue her work.

'I'm exhausted and frustrated'

"It breaks my heart to share with you that ATEN will have to close our doors by August 1, 2022, unless we acquire bridge/core funding, or a miracle,"  Mauger wrote in her message.

The small non-profit has operated solely on donations and fundraisers until now but is struggling to keep up with a surge in demand.

To make up for the financial shortfall, Mauger says she has been volunteering her professional services since March 2022.

"I'm exhausted and frustrated. I currently have a caseload of over 50 clients and a waitlist of over 20 people wanting to access services."

Department of Health and Wellness spokesperson, Marla MacInnis, says the province is trying to expand support services.

In 2019, the government launched a review to find gaps in all counselling available for victims of sexual violence in Nova Scotia. Its goal is increasing the number of therapists in the province and providing more help in under-served communities.

Concern for clients

"We asked for, and received, input from survivors and current community-based organizations and developed a new model of care, " MacInnis said. "Our goal is to improve accountability in our funding, and ultimately offer better support for victims and survivors."

She adds they are still reviewing applications, including a proposal submitted by ATEN,  but it could be a few weeks before they will reach a decision.

In the meantime, Mauger says her greatest concern is what will happen to their clients if help doesn't come soon enough.

Their centre offers services free of charge for people without insurance coverage, but Mauger says no matter where victims turn for help they will have to wait.

"We're all well aware, even the services that are available are stretched and they have waitlists."

The centre offers information, education and resources on their website and provides emotional support and therapeutic counselling by phone or video conferencing.

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