Work­ing group will un­der­take study to de­ter­mine whether fa­cil­ity will be ren­o­vated or re­placed

The Amherst News - - REGIONAL - SACKVILLE TRI­BUNE-POST

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.”

KATIE TOWER-SACKVILLE TRI­BUNE-POST

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