A judge and a restaurant owner in Victoria have both received a prestigious award for supporting people with mental health and substance use challenges.
The Island Health’s Mental Health and Substance Use (MHSU) South Island Advisory Committee presented retired provincial court judge, Ernie Quantz, and restaurant owner, Lori Tronko, with MHSU Community Service Awards during national Mental Health Week.
“By recognizing that mental health and substance use challenges are health conditions – and not a sign of weakness or moral failure – we can make it easier for more people to realize they are not alone and reach out for help,” said Judy Darcy, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions.
“Community champions like Judge Quantz and Lori Tronko are building stronger and more inclusive communities by helping people to feel seen, heard and cared for and by helping people get the support they need to rebuild their lives.”
This is the fourth year the awards have been held to honour community members “who have made kindness and compassion an extension of their work life by supporting people with mental health and substance use challenges.”
In the criminal justice system, for those people with mental health and substance use challenges who were willing to accept responsibility for their offence, Quantz introduced in 2010 an innovative, integrated program to provide supports, including housing, counselling and treatment options rather than jail.
This program has helped hundreds of individuals to access services.
“Time and time again, offenders struggling with mental health and substance use issues would come into my courtroom and often it was clear that they needed more community help and support to protect the public by addressing the underlying causes of the offender’s criminal activity,” said Judge Quantz. “The integrated court program improves access to health, social and economic services for chronic offenders struggling with mental health and substance use issues, enhances public safety, and holds offenders accountable for their actions in a timely manner.”
Lori Tronko, who owns Lori’s Takeaway Café, was recognized with the award for her compassion, respect and friendliness towards individuals with mental health and substance use challenges. Tronko’s café, located at 2560 Quadra St., provides a safe and inviting place for Island Health MHSU staff members to bring their clients for food and conversation.
“I’ve made good mental health a priority in my life since I was young and know that those struggling with mental health conditions have nothing to be ashamed of,” said Tronko. “Everyone is fighting a battle of some kind and we should all treat others the way we want to be treated.”
The MHSU South Island Advisory Committee purchases artwork to present to the award recipients created by artists with lived experience.
“Recognizing community members for treating others with kindness and compassion is such an honour for our team,” said Sharlene Law, chair of MHSU South Island Advisory Committee. “People struggling with mental health and substance use issues are people, too. By treating others with compassion and understanding, Judge Quantz and Lori Tronko are helping to reduce stigma, gain trust and positively influence the lives of some of the most vulnerable members of our community.”