Ontario Shores opens first clinic in Durham Region that specializes in mental health and women’s health


Many women who suffer from a mental illness become mothers, and these women often need specialized care to support their journey into motherhood as well as continued support in their journey to achieving mental health. With the proper supports in place women who become pregnant can maintain their health and develop parenting strategies while living with a mental illness.
Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Sciences (Ontario Shores) opened the first clinic in Durham Region that provides specialized consultation and treatment to women who suffer from a combination of mental health and women’s health issues.
The Outpatient Women’s Consultation Service is a patient-centred, woman-friendly clinic that provides support up to one year to women diagnosed with post-partum depression and/or post-partum psychosis. Women with a serious mental illness who require support with family planning, pregnancy, child-rearing, premenstrual syndrome, menopause or medication induced hormonal changes are also eligible for admission to the clinic.
“It’s a unique service within the community,” says Dr. Aga Kevorkian, Psychiatrist, Outpatients and Integrated Community Access Program at Ontario Shores. “Through research and patient feedback, a gap was identified in these particular women’s services, and we began talking about a clinic that would address those specialized needs.”
Women refer themselves to the clinic with support from a general practitioner in the community. Once accepted, patients meet with the treatment team, which includes a psychiatrist, nurse and social worker, and together they outline the issues and develop a plan of action after which the patients are referred to groups at Ontario Shores or in the community. The clinic team is recovery-focused and guides the patients in setting their own terms of treatment.
During the first visit the patient meets with the entire treatment team, and depending on her concerns, one member of the team may take on a greater role. This flexibility allows the patient to receive specialized care in order to create individualized recovery plans or reach her specific goals.
“I liked the holistic approach to care with the nurse, social worker and psychiatrist,” says Dorothy, a clinic patient. “Everything was explained thoroughly and I was reassured I would be taken care of. If something happened I had their help and support.”
The clinic staff work collaboratively with doctors, nurses and other health-care professionals to ensure these women receive support with maintaining their health during and after pregnancy, developing parenting strategies and coping with a newborn. Birth control and family planning advice are also provided through the clinic.
“Through this clinic, women now have access to specialized, recovery-focused care that is tailored to meet their individualized needs,” says Sheila Neuburger, Vice-President, Clinical Services at Ontario Shores. “We look forward to expanding this service to further improve access to care and support mental health in the community.”
The idea came about when Dr. Kevorkian participated in a clinical rotation with Mary Seeman, a leading psychiatrist in the field of women’s mental health. Seeman led a clinic for women who suffered from schizophrenia, and its success encouraged Kevorkian to explore the idea of a women’s clinic at Ontario Shores. As more research surfaced on women who experience reproductive issues as well as mental health issues, a greater understanding of the combination developed and this sub-population of women fueled the need for a specialized clinic.
After three years of nurturing the idea, Kevorkian proposed the clinic to her colleagues and after about another year of research and planning, the Outpatient Women’s Consultation Service at Ontario Shores was born.
“I think we’re just touching the surface,” said Maxine Mann, Clinical Manager, Outpatients and Integrated Community Access Program at Ontario Shores. “Our patients not only receive care, but they also learn they are not alone and what they are feeling is more common than they ever imagined.”