People living with mental illness in Toronto’s west end will soon have a more specialized space to go to when they need urgent support. The Mental Health Emergency Services Unit (MHESU) at St. Joseph’s Health Centre has been renovated and almost doubled in size. It is opening this week with new features to ensure the patient experience is comfortable, safe and ensures dignity for those in crisis.
The unit had almost 2,000 visits last year and provides valuable care to those in our community experiencing crises as a result of mental illness.
Thanks to generous donors including the Ontario government, the unit now features eight newly designed, private and secure individual patient rooms and interview rooms, separate areas for youth and adult patients, two brand new patient lounges, bright murals and more natural light to make the stay more comfortable for patients and their loved ones.
“We’re a community hospital in an area where many people live with mental illness and we know this is a necessary resource for emergency care,” said Donna Didimos, patient care manager of the MHESU and Emergency Department. “In those situations, people depend on us to be there for them and our new unit will help us continue to provide the safest care when needed most.”
Patients presenting with mental health concerns at the Emergency Department will be triaged to determine their clinical suitability for transfer to the MHESU, where they will then receive specialized assessment and care. Everything in the new space is designed to maximize and enhance their recovery.
“The unit was designed with feedback from patients and staff, and integrated evidence-based design for behavioral health in order to create a warm, welcoming, calming and safe environment for patients at their most vulnerable time,” explained Paula Podolski, Clinical Program Director of the Mental Health and Addiction Program at St. Joseph’s.
New safety and privacy features on the unit include a new safety alert system, secure elevator access for patients, and key security and patient dignity features such as door locks and smart electric glass.There is also an interactive media screen in one room, which can be personalized to the patient’s preferences, just like a smartphone. Research suggests that this technology could be an effective tool for calming and recovery.
“We are very excited to implement the Media Wall technology in our MHESU, which provides patients with interactive options for self-care, focused stimulation, care planning, and connection with family and community supports,” said Podolski.
“Mental Health has come out of the shadows and our new space is a testament to how important the physical environment is in the care and recovery for patients with mental health illnesses.”
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