CAMH replacing an institution with an urban village

The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) is breaking ground on the first phase of one of the largest and most exciting redevelopment projects in Canada: replacing an out-of-date mental health institution on 27 acres in downtown Toronto with a mixed-use urban village.

The architects for the project are a team known as Community Care Consortium (C3), composed of three Toronto architectural firms: Kuwabara Payne McKenna Blumberg Architects, Montgomery Sisam Architects Inc., and Kearns Mancini Architects Inc.

This redevelopment will change CAMH’s sequestered Queen West site from a stigmatized mental health facility into a vibrant neighbourhood – with new sidewalks, shops, restaurants, parks and businesses alongside innovative new CAMH facilities. Several new through streets will link the site with the larger neighbourhood. This award-winning project will integrate client care into the fabric of a revitalized community.

“This is an historic moment. Our redevelopment marks a huge step forward, taking mental health and addiction care into the 21st century,” said CAMH CEO and President Dr. Paul Garfinkel today.What began in the 1850s as a “lunatic asylum” will be transformed into a health centre unlike any other in the world. Through a multi-year, multi-phase redevelopment project, CAMH will be integrating its programs bringing groundbreaking research together with health care, education, policy and health promotion to improve treatment and quality of life for people with mental illness and addictions.

“When researchers rub shoulders with clinicians treating clients, great ideas are born,” Dr. Garfinkel said. “CAMH is pioneering a new integrative model which will help us improve mental health and addiction care locally, while building enhanced capacity across the province and around the world.” This integrative model will also better address the needs of the approximately 40% of CAMH clients who experience both mental health and addiction problems concurrently.

CAMH is building a neighbourhood centred on care, where clients will feel empowered and not stigmatized by their environment. “Our current facilities would never be tolerated if our clients were ill with cardiac disease or cancer or any other kind of illness. We are breaking down the stigma attached to this site and to mental health and addictions treatment.”

One out of every five Canadians will experience mental illness or addiction, leading to billions of dollars in lost productivity every year. CAMH’s bold vision will transform the face of addiction and mental health while contributing to the revitalization of the unique Queen West community.”The physical environment makes an enormous difference in how clients recover,” said Dr. Garfinkel. “We’re building home-like facilities and a real community setting for treatment a safe, comfortable and welcoming neighbourhood for both clients and neighbours.”

On October 5, CAMH will break ground on Phase 1A of our site redevelopment, to be completed in December of 2007. This $35-million project includes three “Alternate Milieu” client care facilities, each with 24 private, home-like bedrooms plus communal living and dining rooms, kitchens and healing gardens. These will house clients from CAMH’s Addictions Program and Mood and Anxiety Program who are past the acute stage of their illness but who need help to transition back into the community.

Phase 1A also includes the creation of one four-storey outpatient and administrative building, a new public park on Queen Street West at Fennings Street, attractive streetscaping and landscape design, and a restoration of the historic Victorian wall on the west side of the site.