Construction officially begins on Regional Mental Health Care, St. Thomas new forensic facility

Proposed St. Thomas facility

ST. THOMAS, ON, April 1 /CNW/ – Steve Peters, MPP for Elgin-Middlesex-London joined Dr. Gillian Kernaghan, President and CEO of St. Joseph’s Health Care London, St. Joseph’s staff, volunteers and patients, community members and partners for St. Joseph’s forensic mental health care building’s official groundbreaking in St. Thomas.

The St. Thomas facility will be a new 233,640 square foot hospital for forensic mental health-care built on the existing lands in St. Thomas and will replace the current facility. It will provide specialized inpatient and outpatient services, including assessment, treatment, outreach and support services to individuals with a mental illness who have come into significant contact with the criminal justice system.
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Contract awarded for forensic mental health care projects in St. Thomas and London

Proposed St. Thomas facility

For Immediate Release March 14, 2011
From Elgin-Middlesex-London MPP Steve Peters

Environmentally-friendly facility to boost local economy during construction

ST. THOMAS – St. Joseph’s Health Care, London (St. Joseph’s) and Infrastructure Ontario announced today that Integrated Team Solutions (ITS) has signed a contract to design, build, finance and maintain two new mental health care facilities in St. Thomas and London.

Today’s announcement signals that all contractual steps are complete, the financing set and construction can begin.

Construction will start in April 2011 and is expected to be completed December 2014. The project, which will include the construction of the two facilities totalling 689,700 square feet of new space, will provide
stimulus to the local and regional economies by creating construction jobs and supporting spin-off activity.
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Walk The Talk on Mental Health

opseudiablogue | February 18, 2011 at 2:28 pm |

LONDON – Words are not enough. OPSEU members in London and St. Thomas are calling upon the community to help “walk the talk on mental health” in front of Local Health Integration Network (LHIN) offices on Wednesday, March 9 beginning at 1 pm.

The demonstration follows more cuts this winter at Regional Mental Health – London and St. Thomas (RMHC) as well as in other communities across Ontario.

“For the past two and a half years the government has been working on a 10-year strategy for mental health,” says Kim McDowell, President of OPSEU Local 152 (RMHC). “While they have been talking about improving the system, the reality on the ground has been one of program closures and layoffs.”

The union is concerned that residents needing mental health care will have no place to go after the regional center divests beds to other communities and downsizes in 2014.

Protesters are asked to gather in front of the Local Health Integration Network offices at 201 Queens Ave in London. After a brief rally there, the protest will march to Health Minister Deb Matthews’ constituency office at 242 Picadilly St.

Want to help? Contact Kim McDowell at 519-765-8660.

For some patients, it’s the last day for a haircut in London-St. Thomas

opseudiablogue | February 3, 2011 at 3:59 pm | URL:

Tomorrow (Friday) will be the last day to get a hair cut for patients at the Regional Mental Health Centre in London and St. Thomas.

The hairdresser employed by the centre was among 20 workers let go last month due to fiscal restraint. Now staff are being asked to “assist patients by providing guidance to access hair salon services in the community.”

The Centre says “alternate arrangements are being finalized to address the need for patients who are not able to attend the community for this service.” Of course, they couldn’t say what those arrangements are.

For those who need assistance in getting their haircut, it will now require two staff to take them into the community, instead of one performing the service on site.

The e-mail to staff at the Centre prompted a flurry of replies, most questioning the wisdom of this decision.

Writes one doctor: “She offered direct patient care to those who have been unable to gain access to community services due to mental illness, physical illness or poverty. Getting one’s hair done by Brenda had greatly helped the self esteem and sense of self worth of many of my patients as well as others. Just because Brenda is not able to prescribe prozac or olanzapine does not make her contribution to clinical care any less significant.”

Another doctor stated on the e-mail chain: “Our patients are already “marginalized” and stigmatized by the society at large. By taking away what little they do have we are also promoting, aiding and abetting this STIGMA ourselves. How can we then tell our peers in the non-mental health settings and the society at large to dispel this stigma?”

“The kinds of activities that contribute to our patient’s dignity and self-worth are being eroded.”

Twenty more mental health layoffs in London-St. Thomas

From opseudiablogue

LONDON — Mental health services at Regional Mental Health Centre – London and St. Thomas have been place in jeopardy as a result of 20 layoffs announced yesterday.

The Ontario Public Service Employees Union received notice from the Regional Mental Health Centre that the positions will be gone effective May 12, 2011 due to budget restraint.

These positions include nurses, therapists, recreationist, social worker, clerical, dietary and housekeeping staff.

“The province just spent $495,000 to a private consultant to work on phase III of a 10-year mental health plan while on the ground mental health workers continue to lose their jobs,” says Warren (Smokey) Thomas, President of the 130,000-member public-sector union. “It’s getting harder and harder to believe the Ontario government is serious about improving mental health services.”

The only hairdresser serving clients at the centre is among those receiving layoff today, raising questions around how some patients will be able to maintain their grooming.

“It’s likely the families of patients will have to make arrangements at their own expense,” says Kim McDowell, Presidennt of OPSEU Local 152. “The kinds of activities that contribute to our patient’s dignity and self-worth are being eroded.”

Skills programming for patients at the centre will be reduced as both workshop activation therapists are losing their jobs.

The layoffs follow on the heels of the recent layoff of 28 child and youth workers at Whitby’s Ontario Shores in December.

Last November 85 staff left Regional Mental Health – London and St. Thomas as part of a transfer of beds to Grand River hospital in Cambridge.

See also The future of mental health care in St. Thomas-Elgin is the thin edge of the wedge and What might have been the future in mental health care.

LHIN consultation guidelines can’t come soon enough

As posted on opseudiablogue

The province has promised to provide community engagement guidelines to the Local Health Integration Networks following this summer’s Ombudsman’s Report.

In that report, the Ombudsman noted a board member of the Hamilton Niagara Haldimand Brant LHIN considered conversations on golf courses and grocery store line-ups as public consultation.

The guidelines, expected in October, can’t arrive soon enough.

At Wednesday’s board meeting of the South West LHIN, Dr. Murray Bryant said an integration proposal from St. Joseph’s Health Care and London Health Sciences “failed the most cursory test” when it came to public engagement.
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Stop bed cuts and assess mental health needs in St. Thomas and London – OPSEU report

LONDON, Sept. 20 /CNW/ – Its time to stop cutting beds and do an updated mental health care needs assessment in the London area says the Ontario Public Service Employees Union in a new report released today.

OPSEU is releasing “No Place To Go” following a summer of confusion over bed transfers from Regional Mental Health Care – London and St. Thomas.

Bed counts at the mental health hospital will drop to nearly half over the next four years, 138 beds transferring away from the RMHC, as many as 80 beds disappearing entirely.

The union argues that while the target bed counts come from the 13-year old recommendations of the provincial Health Services Restructuring Commission, the province has failed to provide promised replacement care in the community.

“The Health Restructuring Commission was very clear that none of these beds should be lost before services are replaced in the community,” says OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas. “They cut the beds, but they never even came close to replacing those services elsewhere.”

The union argues the costs of only taking half of the HSRC’s recommendations have been high. The government’s own discussion paper admits that mental health and addictions costs the Ontario economy $39 billion per year, and that for every dollar spent on mental health, $7 is saved in health costs and $30 saved in lost productivity.

The union is also concerned that relying on a planning document that is 13-years old may not take into consideration more recent demographic projections. For example, the Alzheimer’s Society of Ontario has projected the number of Ontarians with dementia to double within the next 25 years. With half the available beds, this could put London’s mental health services under incredible stress.

The union is recommending the plans for the new RMHC be placed on hold until a needs assessment can be completed, one that takes into account the 10-year provincial mental health plan that is expected to be completed later this year.

“You don’t make major changes to services first, then plan later,” says Thomas. “With private consortiums bidding on the new RMHC in London and St. Thomas, it’s important we get this right.”

Copies of the full report can be downloaded: here

OPSEU calls for disclosure, consultation on London Regional Mental Health Centre plan

OPSEU has written to Health Minister Deb Matthews over the reduction in mental health beds proposed for London’s Regional Health Centre (St. Joseph’s Health Care).

The aging facility is being replaced by two public-private partnerships (P3s) in London and St. Thomas which will offer far fewer beds. The plan also calls for 50 beds to be transferred to Cambridge this fall and another 59 beds to Windsor next year. The new P3 facilities are scheduled to open in 2015 with a 156-bed London Parkwood site and an 89-bed forensic unit in St. Thomas. London and St. Thomas presently have 450 beds.

While the new London hospital will have the ability to add on 12 more beds, there are about 80 fewer beds in the scheme. The province has already reduced the number of mental health beds to below per capita levels recommended by the Health Restructuring Commission.

While the hospital has given OPSEU an outline of the bed changes, no detailed plan has yet to be released to the public.

The union is concerned that given this represents an integration decision by the South West Local Health Integration Network (SW LHIN), that families, patients, staff and other stakeholders be given an opportunity to provide input on the plan.

This also represents another region of the province where mental health beds from one community are being taken to address the needs of another. In North Bay OPSEU is fighting to retain 31 mental health beds that will transfer to Sudbury when the North East Mental Health Centre moves into its new P3 facility.

“We ask that if additional mental health beds are needed in communities such as Sudbury, Cambridge and Windsor, that new funding be granted to meet these needs,” OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas wrote in the letter.

The union is also calling on a moratorium on further cuts to mental health beds given most mental health centres are at or near capacity.

St. Joseph’s Regional Mental Health Care’s future in St. Thomas and London unveiled

St. Joseph’s Regional Mental Health Care St. Thomas will be a new hospital for forensic mental health, built on the existing lands in St. Thomas. It will provide specialized inpatient and outpatient forensic services, including assessment, treatment, outreach and support services to individuals with a mental illness who have come into significant contact with the criminal justice system.

Infrastructure Ontario and the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care will work with St. Joseph’s to build the hospitals, which will remain publicly owned, publicly controlled and publicly accountable. Infrastructure Ontario is a Crown corporation dedicated to managing some of the province’s larger and more complex infrastructure renewal projects – ensuring they are built on time and on budget.
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