Brockville Mental Health Centre marks a very special milestone

The Brockville Mental Health Centre (BMHC) has been part of The Royal Ottawa Health Care Group since 2000 but its history of meeting the mental health needs of clients and families in the region goes back much further. BMHC first opened its doors in 1894 and is celebrating its 125th anniversary this year. 

Originally known as the Eastern Hospital for the Insane, and later the Brockville Psychiatric Hospital, it was built on a site originally known as the Pickens Point property. The December 21, 1894 issue of the Brockville Evening Recorder reported that “the location is one of the most beautiful on the St. Lawrence.” Some of the outbuildings still stand today.

BMHC marked the milestone on October 16 with a festive gathering for staff, clients, and honoured friends. It was a chance to get together, share some memories, and reflect on what makes BMHC such a special place. 

Here’s what a few staff members said about their work at BMHC:

Celia Carter
Social Worker, Geriatric Psychiatry 

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Photo of Celia Carter

Working in the Geriatric Psychiatry Outreach Program at the BMHC for the past twenty-nine years has been a most rewarding, exciting and fascinating occupation. It is from this privileged perspective of working with individuals, families, community partners and health care systems that the evolution of service to the “senior” population has been observed and experienced as a social worker. The BMHC has been engaged in the provision of service to this population from its days as a provincial psychiatric hospital, when people were accommodated in the institution at times of crisis and where many people with chronic mental illness were maintained to live out their lives.  Making the transition to a community-based model of care provoked challenge and inspired innovation for patients and staff alike throughout the years. This abiding commitment to person-centered care has been rooted in the feeling of responsibility to patients as family, a hallmark of care by those who work here. Being supported by team colleagues, sharing common goals for service, and recognizing and being recognized for the important contribution we make to the advancement of wellbeing for our seniors and their families are among the many reasons that keep this work most  gratifying.

Alison Davis,
Senior Psychometrist

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Photo of Alison Davis

“This past August I was fortunate enough to start my 19th year working at the Brockville Mental Health Centre.  I started my career as a psychometrist in the Forensic Program, then moved over to the Secure Treatment Unit when it opened in the fall of 2003 where I continue to be a psychometrist and Registered Psychotherapist. Though I continue to live in Ottawa, I have made the trip to Brockville each day because of the unique opportunity I have been afforded here. Being a part of a smaller campus, truly generates a true feeling of community, both with my colleagues, as well as with the population with whom I work. In Brockville, I have the opportunity to work with the most amazing team of clinicians and correctional staff, and with one of the most marginalized populations in our communities, mentally ill offenders, and mentally ill sex offenders. To date, the STU continues to be a completely unrivaled and unique collaboration between SolGen and the Ministry of Health and one that offers its residents an environment of hope and wellness, with the end goal of reducing recidivism and creating safer communities.  I consider myself extremely fortunate to have the opportunity to do the work that I do, with the people that I do, and to be able to be a part of this 125th celebration!”         

Mark Dickey,
Vocational Counsellor

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Photo of Mark Dickey

“I am a vocational counsellor on the FITT Team in forensic vocational services at the BMHC. I have worked at the BMHC for the past 35 years, eight on hospital services and 27 years at Ottawa and Brockville ACT Team, dual diagnosis unit, rehabilitation unit and now on the Forensic Treatment Unit (FTU). I have followed in my dad’s footsteps, who worked at the BMHC as a welder/plumber in the maintenance department for 36 years prior to my employment here. 

“What I really enjoy about my job is working with people: both my clients and my co-workers. As for my clients, I enjoy helping them establish realistic vocational goals and implement suitable vocational programs that will help them enhance their employable skills and self confidence that will enable them to succeed. Some of the services I provide are intake, assessment, vocational counselling, vocational placement, job coaching and feedback to clients on their progress and deficits. All of these are important if clients are to reach their maximum potential. Some of the vocational placements we provide are, on ward housekeeping placements, recycling program, car maintenance checks, car wash program, Supported Employment Program (lawn maintenance, snow removal & moving jobs), volunteer and competitive employment opportunities. I find it to be so rewarding to see my clients succeed, do meaningful work, develop their skills, and earn some money. I like to put my clients’ well-being first and foremost, and I try to do the best I can in my job to make sure they are happy and that they succeed in life. My co-workers have also been awesome bunch to work with. They are friendly, supportive, knowledgeable, and willing to share their ideas. Some times they even laugh at some of my jokes. My dad always tells me that his job at the BMHC was the best job that he ever had. He was able to raise a large family of seven of us by doing a job he loved to do for all those years in the maintenance department. The one thing he said that he enjoyed the most, was working with other people. I guess we both have that in common.”

Dr. Sanjiv Gulati,
Associate Chief  

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Photo of Dr. Sanjiv Gulati

“What I enjoy most about working at the Brockville Mental Health Centre is the close, cohesive, collaborative approach that staff bring to work every day. There’s a comfort level here. I am always reassured they’ve got my back and we are working together as a team. We have a strong bond. We make decisions as a team and we work together as a family. 

“I’ve worked here for the last ten years and I’ve seen the place grow and every day I see how staff put everything they’ve got into their work. I think there’s a definitely a sense of pride you don’t really see anywhere else.” 

Amber McCaffrey,
Nursing Team Lead

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Photo of Amber McCaffrey

“I am the nursing team lead on B3 at the Forensic Treatment Unit. What I enjoy most about working at BMHC is the client-centred and interdisciplinary team approach to patient care. During each client case conference, the entire treatment team comes together to give input and feedback on patient progress and treatment plans. Each patient is invited to attend their case conference, to discuss any concerns that they may have, make requests, and give feedback to the treatment team. This process allows patients to develop a therapeutic relationship with the entire treatment team, and allows patients to actively participate in their own care. The result is a positive and productive treatment environment for both patients and staff.” 

Esther Millar,
Vice President, Patient Care Services, Professional Practice and Chief Nursing Executive

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Photo of Esther MIllar

“There are lots of reasons I enjoy working at the Brockville Mental Health Centre but for me a few stand out. First, I would have to say is the beautiful campus! From the first time I visited the Brockville campus, I was struck by its beauty. The trees, endless lawns, rustic heritage buildings and the squirrels scurrying to and fro. It’s the type of locale that I seek out when I need to take a walk and let the troubles of the day roll off me. To me, it’s always sunny no matter what mother nature is up to. I am also struck by the atmosphere that envelopes you when you come to work. It’s like homecoming. Friendly faces, and people who care about what they are doing and about who they work with. There is an openness and honesty that permeates – we have really good people working here. Finally, our clients. I get to bump into them routinely and have a quick chat, whether it’s at the foodie truck in the morning or the café in the afternoon. I am reminded of the impact our services can have – helping people get their lives back. And, I can’t mention the café without taking note of the panini sandwiches. Second to no sandwich I have ever eaten. Well done!”  

Nicola Musset,
Psychometrist

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Photo of Nicola Musset

“I often get asked how someone from South Africa ends up in Brockville, Ontario. The answer is simple. I work at the Secure Treatment Unit (STU). The STU is a unique work environment with a complex and difficult-to-treat population however the innovative approach with joint correctional and mental health management allows for a safe and secure treatment environment for staff and residents alike. I feel privileged to be part of a treatment team that not only supports each other but enables residents to improve their lifestyles, choices and learn how to manage their mental illness daily. Being able to facilitate change at a level where it matters most is an honour and I am thankful for this every day.”    

Are you a current staffer or alum? We’d love to hear what you enjoy most about your work at BMHC. Drop us a line at communications@theroyal.ca