Mental health patients benefit from new facilities and recovery based care

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The years ahead promise exciting developments as Grand River Hospital works to instill hope and foster recovery for people in the Waterloo Region living with a mental illness and their families.

“From late 2008 to last year, we provided care in temporary spaces, dealt with construction and planned how we’d provide service when new and renovated spaces were finished,” saysJudy Shearer, the hospital’s associate vice-president of mental health and addictions. “Now that construction is largely done, we’re working hard to make the most of our programs and services to benefit patients.”

Recent renovations have led to expanded acute care units for adults, children and adolescents at the hospital’s Kitchener Waterloo (KW) Site. GRH now runs 52 adult inpatient beds and 12 beds for children and adolescents, an increase of eight and four beds respectively. The expanded units feature bright open spaces, a large new outdoor courtyard and better facilities to care for patients depending on their specific health needs.

“Someone put a lot of thought and time into creating a space that is functional and friendly,” explains Amy Kerr, a former patient of the hospital’s child and adolescent inpatient unit who toured the new space. “It’s large enough to allow for personal space but not so large that it’s overwhelming. I especially like the quiet rooms for patients who need some extra care and time away from others.”

GRH’s Freeport Site is now home to the region’s specialized mental health program. This followed a transfer of beds from Regional Mental Health Care inLondonin November 2010. Patients who need a longer stay receive care in a purpose-built 50 bed unit, closer to their family and friends. Day treatment programs and other services support patients as they return to the community.

“In developing specialized mental health, we had a good opportunity to update our philosophy of care. We’ve shifted to a recovery philosophy recognizing the patient as a unique individual directing his or her own journey of recovery,” explainsAndrew Palmer, director of the specialized mental health program.

The road ahead includes one remaining construction project and more program development. Later this year, GRH will open a new mental health crisis assessment and short-term observation area in the KW Site’s emergency department. This unit will serve individuals with mental health and/or addictions concerns who are in crisis.

GRH has also brought together a new community advisory panel. It includes people with lived experience of a mental health and/or an addiction issue, family members, community partners and support agencies. The panel’s goal is to ensure that the voices of patients, families and community partners are included in hospital planning.

GRH has also added new peer and family navigators to ensure patients’ and families’ perspectives are included in care plans. The hospital has recruited navigators who have lived experience with mental health and addictions, to develop better relationships with and provide more support for patients and families.

Education is another priority. GRH received a $234,100 donation from the Lyle S. Hallman Foundation inKitchenerthis past June. The funding will support education programs for GRH’s 320 mental health and addictions caregivers. This will support the advancement of skills and knowledge for staff and help buy new educational resources for patients and families. GRH is focusing on building awareness of mental health issues and reducing stigma for staff and volunteers.

The hospital has also seen significant growth in its department of psychiatry. Today, 21 psychiatrists are credentialed at GRH… up from eight in 2004. This is due to new programs, increasing capacity in children’s psychiatry and growth in adult mental health services.

Within the next five years,Grand RiverHospitalis well placed to provide leadership in training new psychiatrists through the development of a fully-integrated residency program. The hospital has welcomed its first psychiatric resident this past July, with two more joining each year. The residents will train withinWaterlooandWellingtonfor five years.

“We’re just embarking on this as a satellite ofMcMasterUniversity, and are very happy that one of our psychiatrists, Dr.John Vanderkooyis our regional lead for that program,” explains Dr.John Heintzman, the hospital’s chief of psychiatry. “We will have 10 local psychiatry residents at a time, split between GRH andHomewoodonce we reach full capacity.”