$1.3 million donation to mental health funding campaign

The Sechelt Hospital Foundation has received $1.3 million, which it will be putting towards a fund to help cover the cost of new mental health facilities.

Stuart ‘Tookie’ Angus and Helen Angus provided the “pioneering donation” of $500,000.

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“They’ve been in the community for years and they see what we have available for mental health and addictions treatment for our community and this is why they came forward,” said Jane Macdonald, executive director for the Sechelt Hospital Foundation.

The foundation matched that initial $500,000 from its general funds and then topped it up with another $300,000 from the estate of Joan and Andy Hansen. The donations were announced at the foundation’s annual general meeting in June, which also saw the appointment of Bob Gray as chair.

“All the previous directors on the board… have basically been ringing the bell for now a couple years saying we need to expand and deepen our mental health and substance use treatment facilities here, because they are in dire need of an overhaul and expansion,” Macdonald told Coast Reporter.

The money and the fund form part of the foundation’s three year action plan, which focuses on three core areas, purchasing diagnostic and treatment equipment, professional and community education and outreach, and revitalizing and rebuilding health care facilities.

The foundation worked with Vancouver Coastal Health and the Ministry of Health to established its funding priorities.

Two major projects included on the priorities list are the creation of a “purpose-built” mental health and substance use treatment facility and facility renovations for dementia and respite care services. 

These two projects are associated with preliminary plans revealed by VCH director Lauren Tindall in January to redevelop Shorncliffe and Totem Lodge.

At the time, Tindall said the two projects – estimated to cost $25 and $20 million, respectively – were not yet approved for funding. Shorncliffe would be used for dementia and respite care while Totem would be used for mental health and substance use treatment.

“But this is all connected and contingent upon Totem becoming something other than what it currently is,” said Macdonald, adding that this in turn, is dependent on the status of the deal between VCH and Trellis Seniors Services to build a new long-term care facility, which in January Tindall said VCH remains committed to.

The foundation has invited VCH’s Chief Operating Officer and Head of Capital Projects to a board meeting in September, to establish more details about the plan and updates on costs.

“Our community is so eager and so committed to getting the best medicine locally that we’re not scared of the numbers. We just want someone to tell us exactly what is the plan and how much it’s going to cost,” said Macdonald, who called the figures provided in Tindall’s presentation “ballparks.”

“We know that rainy day is coming and so we’ve basically set up a designated fund for the future mental health and substance use treatment facility,” said Macdonald, adding, “If that is renovated Totem Lodge or a brand new building in lieu of Totem, we’re still trying to get to the bottom of that.” Regardless, she also said the two projects would be the “largest funding requirement ever asked for,” from the foundation.

Other identified funding priorities listed by the foundation include purchasing cardiac monitors, Renovating the Imaging Department and upgrading its Xray machine and system, funding professional development and community outreach, expanding and overhauling the operating room and recovery area, creating a “wellness garden,” and funding housing for off-Coast healthcare providers.

Outgoing directors Gerry Latham, Dan Dolden and Drew Hoyle were also honoured at the foundation’s AGM.

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