New facility emphasizing integration feels more like a home than a hospital.
“I don’t think there’s a family anywhere in North America that hasn’t been touched in some way, directly or indirectly, with the challenges of mental illness,” says Michael McCain, a decade-long donor at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH). McCain and his family recently announced a $10-million commitment to CAMH with the announcement of the new McCain Complex Care and Recovery Centre, a 371,545-square-foot space, slated to open in 2020 that will emphasize re-integration over institutionalization.
The plan is for the new centre to be an open and accessible building that encourages the community to learn about the diverse approaches towards recovery. “When you think back a generation ago, the model of care was incarceration. We’ve gone from that very antiquated, byzantine, really cruel and mean-spirited approach to these diseases, to a model of very compassionate care, treatment, and cure,” says McCain.
CAMH is Canada’s largest mental health and addiction teaching hospital. The recovery centre’s focus on autonomy is a dramatic transformation from “the old model of constraint,” according to the developers. David Cunic, vice president, redevelopment and support services, says the new model is patient-first, and is designed to feel like a home rather than a hospital.
“Everything used to be designed around safety and security, so we tried to balance that with the freedom of choice and independence, because that was compromised previously,” says Cunic.
There will be lounge spaces for reading and entertainment, exercise rooms, and comfort rooms—where all stimuli can be controlled. “It’s important that patients feel like they have creative outlets too,” says Cunic, referring to the music room that doubles as a recording studio. The therapeutic landscape extends outside, where areas to grow plants and vegetables will adorn the grounds. Dubbed the Therapeutic Neighbourhood, walking paths and labyrinths have all been purposefully thought out to allow for choice and flexibility in a downtown campus.
Along with the 110 inpatient beds and eight floors devoted to integrating research and care, the recovery centre will accommodate a library, a 300-seat auditorium, and a classroom facility where CAMH can present findings to the community and to academic partners.
“One of the biggest recovery goals is to leave with life skills,” says Cunic. Patients can work towards a culinary certificate in the centre’s training kitchen, for example. “We tried to be as innovative as we could because recovery is an evolving process.”
McCain says the stigma attached to mental illness is still an overarching obstacle despite society’s growing understanding of its complexities. Shame associated with addiction and mental illness often stops people from seeking help from mental health services, and is therefore a barrier to their recovery. His hope is that the centre’s pro-recovery design will help reduce stigmatizing attitudes.
“It’s significantly better today than it was a decade ago, and it still has a ways to go. We are creating hope with this new redevelopment, and that’s an important step.”