Working group will undertake study to determine whether facility will be renovated or replaced
The future of the Shepody Healing Centre is looking a bit brighter.
Local MP and federal cabinet Minister Dominic LeBlanc visited Dorchester on Friday to announce that plans are in the works to create a national ‘Health Centre of Excellence’ that will modernize and transform the outdated and cramped facilities at the existing Shepody Centre, located within the Dorchester Penitentiary.
“I’m very excited about this,” said LeBlanc during Friday morning’s announcement. “This has huge potential to change the lives of both the patients and the staff there.”
LeBlanc said Correctional Service Canada (CSC) will undertake a study as the first step in the process, which will be led by a working group of Shepody Healing Centre staff, CSC senior management, and other health experts. The working group will bring forward an interim report by October of this year, offering recommendations on the various models that could be adopted, the costs, and an implementation plan.
He said the working group will essentially determine whether the existing facility can be renovated or if an entirely new state-of-the-art building will be required. Either way, LeBlanc said more modern facilities are needed to ensure a safer and Beausejour MP Dominic Leblanc speaks to members of the media during a press conference on Friday morning to announce Correctional Services Canada has established a working group that will undertake a study to create a new, state-of-the art psychiatric hospital at Shepody Healing Centre in Dorchester. Also pictured is Shepody Healing Centre’s executive director Julie Bedard, who will be a member of the working group.
more suitable environment.
Shepody Healing Centre, opened in 2001, is one of five regional treatment centres operated by CSC across the country. It is a multi-level security, 53bed accredited treatment centre for male offenders with mental health needs in Atlantic Canada. The centre provides in-patient, out-patient emergency, and consultative services to other facilities in the Atlantic region.
LeBlanc said Shepody deals with some of the most mentally ill and the most difficult cases
and it is vital that not only the inmates be provided with access to quality mental health services but for staff to be given the proper facilities to be able to treat them effectively and safely.
“Staff working at the Shepody Healing Centre in Dorchester deserve the best possible facilities the government can provide for them so they can do their highlychallenging jobs,” he said.
A new national centre of excellence will provide a higher level of care and offer more space for treatment rooms, programming as well as safe and secure nursing stations, said LeBlanc.
Psychiatrist Dr. Louis Theriault said he is pleased the federal government is coming through on saving the Shepody Healing Centre, noting that the existing facilities are outdated and unsafe for both patients and staff.
“We are really in serious need of a new facility,” he said.
Currently operating at full capacity, Theriault said Shepody has very tight quarters, with only a small common area, one interview room, two small isolation rooms for patients who get violent or agitated, and a cramped nursing station. He also noted the corridor between the prison and the healing centre is narrow and unsafe.
“We don’t have the proper space,” said Theriault, noting that the Shepody Healing Centre is about 30 years out of date.
He said allocating support to proper mental health care is “a good investment for society” as it decreases the likelihood of recidivism.
“With proper treatment, we’re confident we’re making our communities safer,” said Theriault.
Julie Bedard, executive director of the Shepody Healing Centre, will be part of the working group along with Theriault and agreed that having a newer and more modern facility will contribute to the well being of the inmates, and help them better reintegrate into society upon release.
Bedard said the medical professionals at the healing centre – among them nurses, psychologists and psychiatrists – “have had to use a lot of creativity to respond to the needs of our offenders” because of the aging and outdated accommodations.
“So I am very happy to hear this news,” she said.
The working group has already made plans to begin meeting at the end of this month, and will start consulting with key stakeholders and travel to other facilities to look at best practices. They plan to present their initial findings to the federal government by October.
LeBlanc said this announcement shows the government’s committment to Shepody Healing Centre and moves away from the cuts made several years ago under the Conservatives.
He said he’s unsure of what the final pricetag will be, as it will be dependent on whether CSC moves forward on a retrofit or a new facility, but noted that it will be a “significant investment.”
“We think Dorchester and Atlantic Canada has an opportunity to really step up and become nationally a centre where some of the most difficult cases can be treated successfully.”
LeBlanc said he hopes to see work get under way on a new centre by 2019.
“I’d like to see it get going as quickly as possible because this facility, for too many years, has been inadequate,” he said. “One day that goes on is one day too many . . . we need to start this quickly.”