The bright and shiny new Southwest Centre for Forensic Mental Health has opened in St. Thomas with much fanfare and more than a few problems.
The new building may “fight stigma,” as its proponents say, but a bowl of the cafeteria’s soup will cost a lot more for patients, staff and visitors and a glitch in the computerized security system is creating more than a few security headaches. Nor are there enough beds to facilitate the transfer of all eligible patients from the regional detention centre.
The building is the first of two new privatized regional mental health facilities to open in the London area. During the June 14 opening ceremonies officials praised the architecture, noting it reflects a new level of respect for the hospital’s occupants. The second and larger of the two mental health hospitals will open in London for 2015.
The two mental health facilities are being built as public-private partnerships, which means that in addition to the design and construction being provided by the private sector, 30-year maintenance and financing is also part of the deal. Facilities maintenance can include elevator maintenance, electrical and mechanical systems, ventilation systems and other similar work.
After less than a week in the new facility — patients were not transferred into the building until June 19 — employees are already frustrated by the wristband system that is supposed to monitor and control the whereabouts of patients.
Forensic patients are those who have arrived at the hospital following a tangle with the justice system. They have either been found unfit to stand trial, or the court has deemed them to be not criminally responsible for their actions. Contrary to the stereotype, more than 90 per cent of forensic patients are there as a result of non-violent incidents.
The wristband system is supposed to reflect the individual restrictions placed on these patients by the Ontario Review Board (ORB). However, the new security system is allowing patients with much broader security clearance to bring their much more restricted buddies through doors they are not meant to travel through.