May 3, 2021

Gift From Anonymous Donors Will Help People in Crisis

$500,000 Donation Will Help St. Joe’s Build a new Home for Emergency Mental Health Care

An anonymous couple has made a generous gift of $500,000 to St. Joseph’s Healthcare Foundation to support the Hospital’s fundraising campaign to build a new home for Emergency Mental Health Care.

The gift couldn’t have come at a better time as demand for mental health care has increased by 40 per cent during the COVID-19 pandemic. Rates of substance use, abuse and dependency are also increasing as Canadians struggle to cope with stay-at-home orders, missing our families and friends and longing for the activities we enjoy the most.

St. Joe’s is the region’s leading provider of mental health and addictions care for people aged 17 and older, and St. Joe’s staff are seeing an alarming increase in the sheer number of people arriving at the emergency room in crisis. Inspired by their Christian faith and recognizing the incredible need, the donor couple made their gift on Good Friday.

“We’ve seen the effects mental health challenges can have on individuals, on businesses and on families in our community. We’ve always chosen to give anonymously. Rather than focusing on us, we would rather draw attention to the role that St. Joe’s plays as the second largest provider of mental health care in Ontario. And we want to encourage others to invest in this project, so that when people are in crisis, they know they can turn to St. Joe’s for leading-edge care delivered in an environment that was built with patients in mind.”

Wondering What a Person In Crisis Looks Like?

Anyone can be affected by a mental health crisis. It could be a father with alcohol dependence who finds himself suddenly having suicidal thoughts, or a college student in the midst of virtual exams who finds themselves struggling to breathe due to a panic attack. It could be a youth at risk who is found by police experiencing an overdose, or a senior citizen found wandering outside, unsure of their name or where they were headed. These are just a few of the patients St. Joe’s cares for nearly every day in our Emergency Mental Health Service at the Charlton Campus. But right now, all of these patients are treated in one small, outdated space that was built more than two decades ago – even though the kind of mental health care they may need is very, very different.

Building a New Home to Care for the Mental Health Needs of our Community

That’s why St. Joe’s will soon be building a new home for Emergency Mental Health Care. One that has both the space and the healing environment needed to help those in crisis – no matter what brings them to our doors. It’s a $7 million project in total, and community support will be essential to making it happen.

“For our part,” says Sera Filice-Armenio, President & CEO, St. Joseph’s Healthcare Foundation, “we’re working with the community to help raise the funds needed for this essential project. The new anonymous gift of half-a-million dollars is bringing us one step closer to making these plans come to fruition. We’re truly grateful to our benefactors for their ability to see how necessary this expansion is to the mental health and wellbeing of so many people in our community.”

What St. Joe’s New Emergency Mental Health Service Will Look Like

Patients treated within our current Psychiatric Emergency Service report that while the care they received is exceptional, the physical environment is small, dark, windowless and dated. Harder still, it lacks the comfort and privacy that is so important to fostering feelings of hope and recovery. That’s why we’ve invited patients to help inform the new design for our Emergency Mental Health Service.|

Some key clinical components will remain the same. For example, the unit will continue to be located beside the Emergency Room at the Charlton Campus so we can ensure that when someone arrives in crisis, their physical health is assessed and treated first. But from there, each patient’s mental health journey will be customized.

Patients will be shown to one of two distinct care streams and areas: one for those who require urgent mental health support, but may not need to be admitted to the Hospital; and another specifically designed to help people who are experiencing more severe mental health or addiction related concerns and are more likely to be admitted to the Hospital for specialized care.

It isn’t just a more customized and patient-centred space we’re building, it’s a bigger one, too. Because even before the pandemic, demand for urgent mental health care had already increased by 60 percent in the past decade alone — more than any other program at our Hospital. The current unit will nearly double in size and feature new windows to let natural light in. The décor and finishings will be inspired by nature and feature soft colours, wood veneers, smooth stone surfaces and frosted glass for privacy. A care environment that places patient comfort, dignity, and privacy first has been shown to reduce stress and contribute to a supportive care journey for both patients and their loved ones. As a Hospital founded on providing compassionate care, we know this is the right thing to do for the patients we serve. Join us as we transform the emergency mental health journey at St. Joe’s.

Photo credit: Lisa Polewski / Global News

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