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Patients and families to benefit from new Freeport mental health expansion; part of continuum of care for patients

October 29 2010

A $13.5 million expansion to Grand River Hospital’s Freeport Site will provide new specialized services for mental health patients in the Waterloo Region and Wellington County, helping them receive care and support closer to families and loved ones.

Care providers, elected officials, donors, patients and families celebrated the completion of the 50 bed expansion at Freeport today. The expansion marks an exciting future for the Freeport Site, and has included involvement from a range of supporters and advocates in the community.

“This program has been almost a decade in the making. Thanks to the hard work of staff at Grand River Hospital and our regional partners, funding from government and support from the community, patients will benefit from care in a beautiful new facility closer to their loved ones and friends,” said Bryce Walker, chair of the GRH Board.

The program will provide 50 beds and services for individuals living with mental illness. It will allow patients who have previously travelled to London to remain closer to home for specialized care. It will serve patients 19 years of age and older who may need stays of up to three months as they receive treatment for a mental illness. Patients who receive treatment at Grand River Hospital’s K-W Site acute mental health unit typically stay for an average of 12 days.

“While the care provided in London has been excellent, we know local patients would gain so much by having family and friends closer as they receive care. This expansion will not only improve health, but also strengthen quality of life for mental health patients who so richly deserve it,” said Elaine Paton, who attended the ceremony on behalf of families of specialized mental health patients.

Specific aspects of the expansion include:
  • 10 beds for elderly patients with a mental illness
  • A 33 bed unit for patients with a severe and persistent mental illness, as well as a seven bed transition unit
  • The development of mental health outreach services on the sits
  • Adding an assertive community treatment team

The new program will have flexibility to use beds for a range of mental health services, depending on the specific needs of the patient population. Starting next week, Grand River will welcome up to nine patients a week.

New day programs to run at Freeport will help mental health patients who have received in-patient treatment and continue to need support as they live in the community. These include programs to help patients with personal, vocational, social, residential and educational skills along with services to improve their quality of life.

The Government of Ontario has provided $13.5 million in construction funding for the expansion and renovation. Community donors through the Grand River Hospital Foundation have also supported the project, helping to equip the new unit. The hospital has worked with Regional Mental Health Care in London to begin transferring area patients to Freeport to continue their care.

“Our government is pleased to fund vital mental health projects such as this expansion, as well as the new adult, child and adolescent acute facilities at GRH’s K-W Site, ," said John Milloy, MPP for Kitchener Centre. "We want to have a system of care to support patients in whatever setting they may need assistance. But most importantly, we need to end the stigma linked to mental illness so people can receive the support they need."

“Our foundation has seen growing support from the community for mental health projects at both of Grand River’s sites,” said Theresa Fischer, chair of the Grand River Hospital Foundation’s board. “This growing awareness supports not only the hospital and its services, but also reflects a stronger understanding of the need to address mental illness in our community.”

A major feature of the expansion is the inclusion of photographs from community members with lived experience with mental health issues. Grand River Hospital and the GRH Foundation have worked with the artistic group Spark of Brilliance to provide 23 amateur photographers the opportunity to take pictures that show the hopes, dreams and challenges of living with a mental illness. Many of the pictures are on display throughout the addition at Freeport.

“Our organization promotes recovery and discovery through the expressive arts, so the photography project has been an invaluable opportunity for everyone involved,” said Marcey Gray of Spark of Brilliance. “On behalf of the photographers, I can say that this experience has been incredibly rewarding and the courage demonstrated by everyone is very appreciated and shines through in each and every photo.”

Specialized mental health will focus on several recovery principles to guide the provision of care. The goal is to improve the quality of life for people with a mental illness. These principles focus on helping patients to assume as much responsibility over their lives as possible and to function actively and independently in society with respect and dignity.

“Care providers at Grand River and throughout the region are excited about this new service, and the benefits linked with caring for our clients closer to home,” said Dr. John Heintzman, Grand River Hospital’s chief of psychiatry. “We have watched with keen interest as construction on this new facility has neared completion, and we look forward to welcoming our first patients next week.”

For more information, please contact:
Mark Karjaluoto, Director of Communications
Office: (519) 749-4300 extension 2788
Pager: (519) 244-3088
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