The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically impacted many people’s mental health and increased the demand for mental-health care. Helping to guide southern Manitoba through these unprecedented times is Brad Unger, the newly appointed chief executive officer (CEO) of Eden Health Care Services.
Eden is a faith-based organization founded in the mid-1960s that provides a wide variety of mental health services out of Winkler, Steinbach and Winnipeg. The organization is owned and operated by eight Mennonite church constituencies in Manitoba, including Mennonite Church Manitoba, and works in partnership with the provincial health system.
Unger started as CEO on Dec. 1, 2021 after spending five years as program director at Recovery of Hope, Eden’s counselling centre. The Winnipegger has degrees in commerce and theology, and has worked in managerial leadership roles for several social enterprises and non-profit organizations.
He’s entering the organization at a time when the need for its resources is higher than ever.
“Recovery of Hope, through the pandemic, has been doing its most work that it’s ever done in its history,” Unger says. “This last fiscal year was our busiest year in history, and this year will be even busier. It’s a sign that people are accessing services. That’s a positive part. . . . And on the other hand, it does show the incredible strain that people are experiencing.”
Eden offers a myriad of services, including counselling, acute psychiatric inpatient units, outpatient programs, and housing and employment supports. The staff have done an incredible job adapting to ensure their programming remains accessible during COVID-19, Unger says with gratitude.
Eden has also recently expanded several of its facilities, matching the public’s growing engagement with its services. Last fall, it opened the new Eden East Mental Wellness Centre in Steinbach, built with support from the Bethesda Foundation and Eden Health Foundation, which brings a multitude of expanded services to one hub.
“[We’re] excited to serve the Steinbach community and surrounding area in a more robust way,” Unger says.
Also in the works is the development of Recovery of Hope’s Winnipeg office, which underwent renovations to double its size. The new space officially opens this spring; it will include a group room to host workshops, training and group therapy, as well as further space for counsellors.
The team is also looking ahead to the next several years and starting to plan for redeveloping the acute unit in Winkler, whose building is nearing the end of its life and would require a significant capital campaign.
One client who received assistance from Eden Residential Care Services, says: “I would still be living in the old apartment, which was dirty and scary. I am very happy to have a shelter here, a place to call home. . . . At my old place I felt so alone, so when I finally became part of the team I felt loved.”
One reason Unger was drawn to the Eden leadership position was his interest in the intersection of faith and mental health.
“The churches collectively are still having an active role in improving and investing in and guiding the mental-health-service delivery system broadly across all of southern Manitoba,” he says. “It’s a unique and interesting opportunity and gift that I think the church continues to give to the communities of southern Manitoba.”
Unger says the pandemic’s effects on mental health will extend beyond its declared end, so he doesn’t foresee the pace letting up any time soon.
“To have the support and staff in place, and to be positioned to be able to respond to this need, makes us feel grateful,” he says. “This allows us to really reach our mission: Providing hope, healing and community for those on the mental health journey. We’re in a great position to help give back to church community and the community at large during this time.”
This article appears in the Feb. 21, 2022 print issue, with the headline “Eden expands, evolves as pandemic affects mental health landscape.” Do you have a story idea about Mennonites in Manitoba? Send it to Nicolien Klassen-Wiebe at email@example.com.