Because mental health care is transforming

Over the past several decades the mental health care system in Southwestern Ontario has seen a vast amount of change and most notably is the change that has developed over the past 15 years. The system is being transformed to ensure patients are getting the best care possible - closer to family, closer to friends, closer to community and closer to home.

Changing care…

In 1997 the provincial Health Services Restructuring Commission called for the divestment of mental health services from facilities in London and St. Thomas to communities across the region.  This move was mandated to further the principle of providing care closer to home for residents of Southwestern Ontario.  The divestment process is underway, with the first transfer of inpatient services to Kitchener implemented in the fall of 2010.

view the video about the new era in mental health care, click below:
Mental Health Care is tranfrorming... play video

Changing buildings…

The Commission directives also called for St. Joseph’s to build two new specialized mental health care facilities, one near St. Thomas and one in London; and in March of 2010 both projects reached financial close through Infrastructure Ontario.

The new buildings will help to provide dignity, comfort, and life affirming progress as patients journey toward recovery, regaining the skills and confidence needed to return to community living. These new spaces will help to promote individualized care plans as well as supporting the philosophy of care - psychosocial rehabilitation (PSR). “PSR is a journey for patients,” says Sandra Fisman, chief of psychiatry. “It’s about promoting individual healing rooted in personal goals, family involvement, support and community interaction. PSR enables people to lead full, meaningful lives while coping with a mental illness.”

New artist rendering – Specialized Mental Health Care building, London
New artist rendering – Specialized Mental Health Care building, London

New artist rendering – Specialized Mental Health Care building, St. Thomas
New artist rendering – Forensic Mental Health Care building, St. Thomas

Lives are transformed…

Time Well Spent
Margareta Rawlins was a bit anxious, but mostly excited when she heard her husband who was receiving care at St. Joseph’s Regional Mental Health Care London was going to be transferred to a hospital close to their home town of Cambridge. “Edward had really good care so I was a bit nervous when I thought of him transferring to a new place, hoping his care would be as good as what he received at St. Joseph’s.”

Margareta and Edward had already been on the long journey that Alzheimer’s disease brings to families before coming for care in London.  Edwards’s early onset Alzheimer’s had resulted in some mental health issues and the nursing home he was cared for in Cambridge was not equipped to handle his specialized care needs. At that time, in 2008, Waterloo Region did not have a facility to support Edward’s care, so he was sent to the geriatric psychiatry program at St. Joseph’s Regional Mental Health Care.  “I was so impressed with the staff,” says Margareta. “I knew things were going to get better for my husband.” Edward’s condition did improve, his medication was adjusted and he was doing very well.

In the fall of 2010 a transformative step happened for mental health care in Southwestern Ontario. The first of four planned divestments of beds and services from St. Joseph’s to hospitals in the region was completed.  This was a long-awaited step set in place by the 1997 Health Services Restructuring Commission. This step involved the transfer of patients and staff from Regional Mental Health Care to Grand River Hospital in Kitchener.

The move away from large institutional mental health care settings to care closer to home is now becoming a reality.  For Margareta, her husband was simply moving closer to home.

“I was really happy with the care, but not happy with the drive,” says Margareta, who would take the hour long drive twice a week to visit her husband. “Sometimes the roads were really treacherous in winter; it was difficult to get there as often as I wanted.” Now she travels only 10 minutes from her home to Grand River Hospital to be with Edward.  “Having my husband closer to home has tripled the amount of time I spend with him!”

Margareta believes after all this change Edward is in a good place. “His quality of life is the best it can be - and I am spending more time with him, rather than in the car.”


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