Opening the East Wing Expansion at St. Joseph’s Hospital

September 06, 2018

​The opening of the expansion to St. Joseph's Hospital, located in Thunder Bay, Ontario, brings in a new era in psychiatric care.

The expansion, known as the East Wing, is home to the Mental Health Rehabilitation program, providing 38 longer-term inpatient beds for people living with a severe, persistent, chronic, and/or relapsing mental illness, along with other co-existing issues.

"Clients and family members have been involved in this project from the beginning, starting with the space design and program features," explains Tracy Buckler, President and CEO of St. Joseph's Care Group. "Their input has been essential to the creation of a space that is safe and beneficial to rehabilitation. We can now provide care in a home-like environment that will prepare clients for discharge into a community setting – contributing to their overall success." 

Mental illness, like any other chronic illness, has periods of intensity where symptoms are not manageable by the individual alone. In these times, professional assistance and care is often required. This care may involve admission to acute care for stabilization, followed by mental health rehabilitation to regain the maximum level of functioning a person can achieve. Our goal is to provide specialized support and skill development so clients can return to their homes and be successful in the community.

Under a psychosocial model of rehabilitation, clients will learn to manage and live with mental illness in an environment that promotes dignity, and respects cultures, traditions and beliefs.  Janet Sillman, Vice President of Addictions & Mental Health provides further insight into the changes in mental health care, "For years now, we have been making strides to improve health care for people with serious mental illnesses - this includes changing how and where we provide care. Clients now lead their own care journeys and identify their own personal wellness goals."

The Mental Health Rehabilitation program at St. Joseph's Hospital is a milestone in a journey from institution to community.  According to Scott Potts, Vice President of Infrastructure & Planning, "In preparation over the last two decades, we have been creating new partnerships and fortifying existing ones, moving mental health outpatient programs into community settings and increasing the number of high and medium support housing spaces."  Earlier this year, St. Joseph's Care Group opened St. Joseph's Health Centre South, bringing more outpatient mental health supports into the community – inside a shopping centre to be exact.

The opening of the East Wing marks the end of an era of institutional care with the closure of the Lakehead Psychiatric Hospital.  "What better way to demonstrate the journey from institution to community than to have a rehabilitation hospital that provides care for body, mind and spirit under one roof?" reflected Buckler. 

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