May 7, 2020

The Healthcare and Municipal Employees Credit Union is so committed to providing financial services and advice to healthcare workers that they set up a branch right inside St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton’s Charlton Campus in 2007. From this vantage point, the HMECU team has witnessed firsthand the compassionate care St. Joseph’s provides every day, and the ways that philanthropy can enhance the care environment and a patient’s experience in the Hospital.

When HMECU’s marketing coordinator, Kate Blenkarn, heard about the Hospital’s plans to redevelop its emergency mental health department, she had an idea on how HMECU might be able to help. You see, Concentra is a wholesale bank and trust company providing services for all of Canada’s credit unions—including HMECU. Concentra believes that financial institutions have an important role to play in building a better future for Canadians. Through their corporate social responsibility program’s Empowering the Community grants, Concentra grants approximately $200,000 to 17 different community projects across Canada—projects that are nominated by their individual credit union partners.

“When I found out about St. Joe’s Psychiatry Emergency Service (PES) program I immediately wanted to know more. Not only was I inspired by the services provided by this team, but I had been to the area before, and I understood better than most how a renovation to this space would improve the experience of people who come to St. Joe’s in crisis,” says Blenkarn. “Mental health is something very dear to my heart and something that I know affects many people which is why I thought it would be the perfect project for HMECU to suggest and endorse to Concentra’s Empowering the Community grant competition in 2020.”

As it turns out, Kate’s instincts were right on the money. After submitting information about St. Joseph’s plans to renew its emergency mental health department, Kate learned in early May that her nomination had been successful and St. Joe’s would soon receive a $10,000 grant to support the renovation of its Psychiatric Emergency Service. It’s wonderful news we’re pleased to share during Mental Health Awareness Week, May 4 – 10, 2020.

About St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton’s Psychiatric Emergency Service (PES)

Located beside the Emergency Department of St. Joseph’s Charlton Campus, PES is the sole provider of emergency mental health services in the city for everyone aged 17 and older. Alarmingly, in the past decade, the number of patients arriving at our Hospital with a mental health or addiction related crisis has grown by more than 60 percent—more than any other clinical program at the Hospital. So the Hospital needs more space to meet this growing demand.

But it isn’t just a matter of needing more space – its also about the design and function of that space. “During the 21 years I’ve worked at St. Joe’s, I’ve treated many patients who have received care in Psychiatric Emergency Service and heard the stories of many more,” says Dr. Peter Bieling, Vice-President of Mental Health & Addictions. “I’ve learned that you simply cannot underestimate the impact the right care environment can have on someone in crisis.”

“It’s a moment in which we have a tremendous opportunity to help, a turning point,” explains Dr. Bieling. “Having privacy. Having the option to keep their family close by. Having a place to sit, to think, to tell the story and begin a journey to getting better–all the details matter more than you might think. It’s part of caring for someone as a complete person.”

Consider for a moment, that our team of care professionals in our Psychiatric Emergency Service could at the same time be caring for:
A young adult having severe panic attacks during exam week
An at-risk youth experiencing withdrawal from substance use or abuse
A senior with dementia found outside in the cold
A father experiencing feelings of hopelessness and self harm after losing his job

All of these patients need different types of care and intervention. Some may need to be admitted to Hospital, while others may be able to get immediate help and then seek counselling and support within the community. But right now, all of the patients are being treated in one, small, communal space that was built two decades ago and is challenged to offer the privacy, safety, dignity and comfort that each patient deserves.

That’s why St. Joe’s Foundation is actively fundraising $6 million to double the size of the psychiatric emergency service while creating a space that reflects our recovery-based approach to mental health care. Every donation moves us ever-closer to our goal and we’re grateful to our friends at Concentra and HMECU for their advocacy and support.

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