Making over the asylum...

Wednesday 28 Apr 2010

Community Care Consortium (C3) completes transformation of a former psychiatric hospital into an 'urban village' for addiction and mental health treatment

The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, the largest mental health care / addiction treatment and research facility in Canada, is undergoing a major transformation on its 27 acre site, in a mixed retail and residential urban neighbourhood in Toronto. Built originally as a Provincial Asylum in 1849, CAMH evolved over the last 160 years as an institutional campus of patient-care and administration buildings, interconnected with links, creating an internalised environment for clients and staff alike.

In combating the stigma long associated with mental disorder and addiction, CAMH developed the vision in 1998 to create an 'urban village' for its comprehensive site redevelopment. This innovative concept was developed with the goal to fully integrate mental healthcare into the community, in order to provide a more normalised treatment environment for patients. By extending the existing fabric of city streets surrounding the site, the hospital’s new buildings will be distributed on different city blocks amongst other mixed-use non-hospital buildings.

The first phase of this redevelopment is a pilot project known as 'Alternate Milieu', designed for transitional residential and outpatient care for 72 clients in the Addiction and Mood & Anxiety programs. The concept of 'urban integration' is supported by the construction of three distinct apartment-like buildings, each accommodating 24 clients along a tree-lined city street. A separate flexible, generic office-type building houses the Addiction Outpatient programs.

The key to the success of this new facility is the creation of a home-like environment that is filled with ample natural light. An intimate social milieu is created by the grouping of six clients on each of the four floors. For each building, all clients have easy physical and visual access to a large landscaped courtyard garden which provides therapeutic use as well as opportunities for informal social gathering and interaction between clients and staff members.

The concept of the 'House and Garden in the City' reinforces the vision of a normalising, healing environment that fosters and supports clients’ recovery and return to the community.

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