From L to R Dr. Catherine Zahn, CAMH President and CEO; Han Dong, MPP Trinity-Spadina; Shanitha Kachan, Director, CAMH Foundation Board; Toronto businessman Gerald Sheff; Darrell Louise Gregersen, President and CEO, CAMH Foundation. Photo Courtesy of CAMH.

Capacity doubles at CAMH emergency department

Organization hopes to join College and Queen Street locations

The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) has announced the opening of the Gerald Sheff and Shanitha Kachan Emergency Department at their College Street location. It is an upgrade from the previous crowded and outdated emergency department, at the same location.

The building, is named after the couple who made this possible with a generous gift of $2.5 million. The total cost of the project is an estimated $7 million.

The space, which is Ontario’s only psychiatric emergency department, provides 24/7 care for its mental health patients. According to CAMH statistics, visits to the emergency department have increased dramatically, with 76 per cent more visits in 2014 than in 2006.

“[We] probably managed about 200 to 250 assessments a month back then,” Linda Mohri Executive Director of Access and Transitions at CAMH said. “Our most recent volume of information suggests that we are seeing well over 600 visits per month, so we really outgrew the previous space.”

Among the improvements is a doubling in capacity, two waiting rooms, double the amount of patient interview rooms, a patient lounge, a private and quiet room for families and training spaces for CAMH staff.

“There were times when it was so overcrowded that we had to ask family members or other people accompanying our patients to wait outside of the department and because it was so small, people with all different types of problems were held in the same area,” Mohri said. “For instance, if somebody came to us and was quite agitated and aggressive they were held in the same area as somebody who had less acute problems.”

Visits to the emergency department have grown exponentially. Photo Courtesy of CAMH.
Visits to the emergency department have grown exponentially. Photo Courtesy of CAMH.

This is the first of a two-part project that plans to join and expand emergency services at CAMH’s Queen Street location in the years ahead. This change will effectively close the College Street location.

“All of the redevelopment that is at the College Street site, will be moving down to Queen Street, including the emergency department,” Mohri said. “We have designed the space at the College Street location, so it can be repurposed into other clinical or other activities, but all emergency activity will take place at the Queen Street site.”

The College Street renovation has given CAMH a blueprint of what the Queen Street location could eventually become.

“What we are very fortunate to have is that we have been able to test design concepts in the College Street location renovation,” Mohri said. “Which we will apply to the new renovation.”

The new emergency department has been a critical step in the hospital’s transformation.

“Those who are new to the CAMH system and who start their journey in the mental health system start in our emergency department,” Mohri said. “Having a welcoming, bright environment where there is space, where we can be respectful of privacy and confidentiality, where we can support families, where they can stay with their loved ones, it is a really significant improvement for us.”