Published online at GlobalTVEdmonton.com on March 7, 2011.
Linda Hoang, Global News: Monday, March 7, 2011
Controversial mental-health facility now open
After years of building, delays and controversy, the city’s newest geriatric mental-health facility is now open.
Villa Caritas, at 16515 88 Ave., held a grand opening ceremony on Monday. It is a 150-bed facility and will increase access to geriatric mental health services in the city by 44 beds, or by 42%.
“There is no one size fits all solution when it comes to ensuring proper care. Villa Caritas meets a very important need, serving our most vulnerable,” said Premier Ed Stelmach at the opening ceremony.
“It’s a very exciting opportunity for us. When I speak with the patients, they give me nothing but positive feedback on what this facility means to them,” said Gail Tricker, Villa Caritas’ patient care manager.
The construction of Covenant Health’s three-storey, $51.4-million facility has been controversial, marred with delays and financial concerns.
The first group of patients moved out of Alberta Hospital Edmonton into Villa Caritas in January, but the move came after months of delay, financial questions, extra costs, concerns the new building was originally meant to be a long-term-care facility and a letter-writing campaign from psychiatrists to prevent the move.
Villa Caritas beds are for seniors needing short-term treatment for depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, bipolar disease, dementia or Alzheimer’s.
But because the facility was originally meant to be a long-term care facility, $5 million was added to the original $43.4-million cost of construction to boost security to keep patients safe.
The windows are glass-tempered and can’t be shattered. The walls are covered with a special coating to prevent drywall from buckling if it’s hit, and there are barriers in the stairwells to prevent suicides.
Another $3 million has been spent on equipment for staff that will enable them to better track patients or make distress calls.
120 beds are now open with the final 30 expected to open later this month.
All 106 patients from the Geriatric Mental Health Program will be moved in by the end of the month.