A new 28-bed treatment and rehabilitation facility for people with mental heath needs has been opened in Gibsons and will see its first clients move in on Nov. 13.
The centre, dubbed Sumac Place, at 841 Kiwanis Way, will house people who are stable but have persistent or complex mental health requirements.
Clients will come from all over the Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) area to live on site, receive treatment and learn basic life skills so they can eventually transition back into society. Stays will range from six months to two years or more if needed.
“The treatment focus is to help mental health clients maintain stability and achieve meaningful recovery while acquiring life skills along the way,” said Brenda Langevin, VCH health services director for the Sunshine Coast and Powell River. “Research shows that people get better faster when they’re treated in smaller, home-like settings, which is what we are striving for with Sumac Place.”
Since the closure of Riverview Hospital in Coquitlam (B.C.’s only large scale psychiatric hospital) in July of this year, smaller facilities like Sumac Place have been opened throughout VCH.
“It’s a bigger picture thing,” said Douglas Andrie, manager of mental health and addictions on the Sunshine Coast. “Because Riverview was closed down, it was an opportunity to open up several sites. So there are several of these that have been opened within Vancouver Coastal Health and throughout the province.”
The Sunshine Coast facility is divided into four wings, each with seven rooms, a lounge, kitchen and dining area.
Clients will be grouped together during their stay and have access to a rehabilitation worker and other mental health supports.
Over time clients will be taught the basics of day-to-day living including cooking, caring for themselves and co-existing with others.
Once deemed able, clients will be given passes to practise their skills in public.
“But before people are given passes to go out to the community, there’s going to be stages for that to happen,” Andrie said. “We need to make sure people are ready for that step, so we would do a lot of work with them within the facility and then it would lead to doing work out with a staff member with several people and then graduate to eventually going solo into the community.”
Once rehabilitated, clients will be encouraged to return home; however, they may decide to stay on the Coast.
“Because they’ll be there anywhere from six months to two, three or even more years and because we do encourage them to be part of the community in which they’re living, the Sunshine Coast may become their community. But the agreement is that people will be returned to where they come from,” Andrie said.
Some local clients will be admitted to Sumac Place, filling a need on the Sunshine Coast.
“I think it is helpful for us on the Sunshine Coast because we are lacking housing for our mental health folks,” Andrie said. “There is a real shortage of low-barrier appropriate housing. So this gives us at least another option for rehabilitating people so they have more opportunity to live in a facility that would be more normalized.”
Andrie expects four clients to move into Sumac Place on Nov. 13 with two more joining them every week thereafter until the facility fills up.