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British Columbians with mental health and substance-use challenges and their families will have increased access to vital, culturally safe mental health and addictions care with the opening of a new wellness centre at the Royal Columbian Hospital.

“For too long, children, youth and adults living with mental health and substance use challenges have struggled to get quick access to the supports they need and deserve,” said Judy Darcy, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions. “The new Mental Health and Substance Use Wellness Centre is a wonderful healing space with 75 beds and several new and expanded outpatient clinics to support people on their healing journey.”

Located at the Royal Columbian Hospital in New Westminster, the nearly 37,000 square-metre (393,000 square-foot) centre includes 75 inpatient beds, 45 of which are new. It also offers outpatient services including a mood disorder clinic, expanded clinics for adolescent psychiatry, reproductive psychiatry and psychiatric urgent referral, as well as group therapy and neuropsychology clinics. Fraser Health is taking a phased approach to opening the new centre, which began with the opening to outpatients on July 13, 2020.

To support people living with substance-use challenges, the centre will provide expanded addiction services through a new addictions medicine and substance-use clinic.

“Today marks a very important step in and an equally important milestone in bolstering services for people across our region who are living with mental health and substance-use concerns,” said Dr. Victoria Lee, president and CEO, Fraser Health. “Our Mental Health and Substance Use Wellness Centre will expand our capacity in-hospital, but will also ensure much-needed outpatient services are available to people who need them now and in the years to come.”

The Mental Health and Substance Use Wellness Centre will also be home to a new electroconvulsive therapy clinic that will provide people with access to neurostimulation, a treatment that uses electrical signals to provide relief to patients affected by neurologic and psychiatric disorders, as well as chronic pain. The centre will be the new regional site for this service.

In addition, the centre is the first in the Fraser Health region to offer a specialized unit for seniors dealing with acute depression, anxiety or psychosis. The centre was built using a patient-centred design that had input from patients, families, psychiatrists and clinicians.

“Our donors can look with pride at the realization of a grand vision that dates back to the 1990s when the foundation purchased the land on which this important new centre was built,” said Jeff Norris, president and CEO, Royal Columbian Hospital Foundation. “In recent years, hundreds of donors have generously come forward to contribute to the project, led by BMO Financial Group's $1 million gift towards mental health.”

The new centre is an inviting, spacious and therapeutic sanctuary where patients can feel safe, respected and supported in their recovery. The centre features plenty of windows and natural light. To further support a diverse and culturally safe environment, First Nations artwork will help create a calming and welcoming environment for patients while they recover.

Inpatient units at the centre include spaces for patients to be social, spaces to spend time alone, a lounge for visiting with family, friends and other patients, a secure outdoor patio and an exercise room. All of the patient rooms are private spaces with ensuite bathrooms.

“Since I was a teenager I have struggled with severe depression and disordered eating. Having access to these services then likely would have helped prevent me from struggling with addiction later on in my life,” said Savanna Mak, a young woman with lived experience. “I was lucky enough to find a mood disorder clinic in my early 20s, which finally got me the help I needed. I'm thrilled to know that many younger folks will now be able to get the help they need - when they need it - before things get worse.”

Expanding mental health and substance use services is an integral part of A Pathway to Hope, B.C.’s roadmap for making mental health and addictions care better for people in British Columbia. Implementing A Pathway to Hope is a shared priority with the BC Green Party caucus and is part of the Confidence and Supply Agreement.

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