Ontario Shores celebrates a century of care

By Melissa Quinlan

Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Sciences (Ontario Shores) is celebrating 100 years of helping individuals living with mental illness.

The organization’s journey officially began in 1911 when architect James Govan consulted with psychiatrists, physicians and government officials to develop a design for a new mental health centre on the shores of Lake Ontario.

During World War I it served temporarily as the Ontario Military Hospital, a convalescent home for wounded veterans before shifting back to mental health and officially opening as the Ontario Hospital for the Insane on October 23, 1919.

The hospital has had several names over the years and in 2009 rebranded to Ontario Shores.

For the past century, Ontario Shores has provided psychiatric health care for people living with complex mental illness. The hospital has remained on the same grounds for the last 100 years, allowing patients to enjoy a therapeutic environment of recovery on the beautiful shores of Lake Ontario.

The organization has seen transformations in a number of areas over the last 100 years, particularly in recovery, to improve the lives of people living with mental illness.

In the early 2000s, Ontario Shores embraced a philosophical shift in focus of care, pushing for personal recovery distinct from clinical based on the principles of empowerment, hope, recovery, collaboration, identity, responsibility and meaning in life.

Notable advancements have been implemented since the shift in care including a HealthCheck Patient Portal that brings balance to the patient-clinical relationship, allowing individuals to be in control of their path to wellness. The Portal enables enhanced patient monitoring and provides clinicians with real-time access to critical health information necessary to provide safe and quality care.

Innovation has grown exponentially in the area of technology with the organization’s use of electronic medical records.  In 2014, Ontario Shores became the first hospital in Canada and the first mental health hospital in the world to achieve the prestigious HIMSS EMRAM Stage 7 Award – having a completely paperless health information system which advances the use of patient data to ultimately improve process and performance.

The hospital implemented the Recovery Action Plan to identify opportunities to advance its recovery efforts. It consists of a wide array of plans such as establishing the first Recovery College in the inpatient hospital setting in the world, as well as the first Recovery College in Canada. Recovery College administers courses that provide education about mental illnesses, treatment options, wellness and ultimately discovering or rediscovering passions, hope and meaning.

The hospital has expanded its services to outpatients with 90,000 visits annually. Outpatients receive care and support to reach their goals aimed at independent or group living back into the community.

Ontario Shores provides a number of outpatient programs as well as partnerships with other organizations to provide patients with wellness, vocational skills, literacy and independent living training and support to adolescents, adults and seniors in a range of programs directed to personal recovery.

The Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP) is a 12-week day treatment program for individuals with a serious and persistent mental illness that provides coordinated, intensive and interprofessional treatment that is skills based and meets the recovery needs of each patient.

PHP is unique as it offers diverse services to aid in a patient’s recovery. In addition to its group therapy, coaching and psychoeducation, the program offers leisure, recreation, music and art groups that prove to be an effective tool in fostering positive mental health, helping patients explore themselves and better communicate in a non-traditional form.

The last 100 years have seen a tremendous amount of change in the way professionals have viewed and administered clinical and client-centred care. There is a stronger focus on the mental health and addictions system, partnerships and collaboration as well as advocacy, research, education and anti-stigma.

Another notable step Ontario Shores has taken to advance its efforts for people living with mental illness is its recent collaboration with the four specialty mental health hospitals in Ontario, to celebrate the positive impact of its new provincial structured psychotherapy program.

The collaboration embarks on a first-ever demonstration project to increase access to evidence-based structured psychotherapies. 2019 marks the third year of this project.

By implementing the Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy (CBT) Unified Protocol, Ontario Shores was able to leverage existing models, ensure fidelity and create structures for standardization and clinical support to rapidly implement a high quality service to demonstrate clinical outcomes.

Overall, patients are showing significant measurable changes in depression and anxiety symptoms, with some moving from moderate levels to sub-clinical or mild levels of symptoms.  In addition there is a trend towards fewer and/or less intense depressive and anxiety symptoms and improved general life satisfaction.

The organization takes great pride in celebrating the current efforts as well as in its determination to create a better future for every person impacted by mental health issues.  This milestone recognizes Ontario Shores’ past, celebrates recent achievements and shares a vision for the future of mental health care by advancing conversations about Ontario Shores and those impacted by mental illness.

To celebrate the anniversary and recognize the exemplary care the organization provides, Ontario Shores selected six Ambassadors of Hope to help ignite conversations about mental health in the community.

Ontario Shores is proud to recognize Jordon Beenen, Ian Hakes, Kristie Jennings, Candice McAlister, Barbara Murray and Lori Lane-Murphy who have assisted with events, initiatives and campaigns associated with the 100 year anniversary of Ontario Shores.

The six ambassadors have been an integral part of these initiatives and are helping spread the message about Ontario Shores and raise awareness of mental illness leading up to the anniversary. Through their lived experiences, advocacy work, volunteering and diverse career paths, each of them are determined to make a difference in the lives of people living with mental illness and are pushing to continue to remove the stigma associated with it.

“I feel so honoured to be an ambassador and take part in the events for an organization that does such great things for people living with mental illness,” notes Beenen. “Being an Ambassador is especially important to me because it allows me to take a participatory role in stigma reduction and raise awareness toward mental illness. Taking part in the celebrations and projects leading up to the anniversary helps to validate me as a mental health advocate.”

Some of the events leading up to the milestone included a Century of Care Speaker Series, featuring stories and topics that celebrate recovery, embrace the history and imagine the future leading up to this anniversary as well as a partnership with the Robert McLaughlin Gallery. The collaboration engaged the community with a focus on art through the lens of mental illness.

In addition, the organization continued its celebrations with a juried art show during July and August where it welcomed works of art that connect with mental illness, mental health, recovery and its history of providing care.

Through the various initiatives in celebration of the milestone, the organization is continuing its mission to normalize conversations surrounding mental illness.

Ontario Shores has seen a great change in the mental health landscape, over the last century. However, the commitment and passion each and every person in the hospital has towards helping people living with mental illness will always remain constant.

Melissa Quinlan is a Communications Coordinator at Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Sciences.