$500,000 Gift from Labourers’ International Union of North America Paints a Brighter Future & Builds a Bigger Home for Emergency Mental Health Services at St. Joe’s
The union whose members have built much of the landscape of our city has made a half-million-dollar donation to help build a larger, brighter and recovery-focused home for emergency mental healthcare at St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton.
St. Joe’s is the sole provider of emergency mental healthcare in the city for anyone over the age of 17. While the unit typically cares for more than 4,000 patients each year, that number has been rising by 10 per cent each year for the past 10 years. But the greatest spike in demand has come amidst the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“The pandemic is having a severe and lasting effect on the mental health of Canadians,” says Dr. Maxine Lewis, Joint Chief, Mental Health & Addictions at St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton and Niagara Health. “Some are experiencing severe panic attacks due to fear and anxiety, while others are depressed from long periods of isolation or job loss and economic uncertainties. Frontline workers are experiencing PTSD from all that they have witnessed and we’re seeing a host of addiction related concerns as the data shows that substance use has escalated, too.”
LiUNA’s new $500,000 donation will assist with a capital project designed to double the footprint of St. Joe’s Emergency Mental Health Service while also creating two separate but related care units: one for those who require urgent medical care and mental health support, but are not likely to be admitted to the Hospital; and another specifically designed to help people who are experiencing more severe mental health or addiction related concerns and who may need to be admitted to the Hospital for specialized care. It’s a $7 million project overall. St. Joseph’s Healthcare Foundation is working with the community to raise more than $3 million to kick-start the construction while the Hospital is working with the Ministry of Health to request government support for this essential expansion.
“St. Joe’s is a pillar of our Hamilton Community and on behalf of LiUNA we are proud of our ongoing partnership to strengthen accessible mental health outreach and support programs that impact our members, families, loved ones and our greater community,” says Joseph S. Mancinelli, International Vice President and Regional Manager of Central and Eastern Canada. “Working in collaboration with leading medical experts of St. Joe’s we continue critical advocacy and outreach for mental health and addiction support services, while also remaining committed to building, expanding and strengthening vital infrastructure to provide a safe and comfortable space for accessible care on the journey of hope and recovery led by the team at Joe’s healthcare who continue to inspire us each and every day.”
Mancinelli also shared that he, like many others, turned to a creative outlet to help with his own mental health amidst lockdowns during the pandemic. “Painting, for me, has always been a creative outlet to express what I am feeling that cannot accurately be portrayed in words. It is an artistic escape that allows our mind to refocus and to tell a story through art and impact the emotions of others,” he said.
In addition to the $500,000 donation, Mancinelli has donated a limited-edition giclée painting entitled “Frontline Heroes” to the Hospital. It depicts the heavy toll the pandemic has taken on the mental health of frontline workers and by showing one care-giver comforting another outside of a patient room. The painting has been given a place of honour in the lobby of the Juravinski Innovation Tower at St. Joe’s Charlton Campus.
“We’re humbled, both by your donation and your painting that so accurately depicts what so many of us have been feeling over the past 22 months,” said Melissa Farrell, President of St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton. “In 2013, LiUNA made a $500,000 gift to help build our Seniors Mental Health Unit at the West 5th Campus. And today, they made a second $500,000 gift to help expand and renew our Emergency Mental Health Unit at the Charlton Campus. These gifts are not just building new care facilities. They’re ensuring that no matter what brings someone to our doors, may it be bulimia or bi-polar disorder, anxiety or alcohol dependence, we’ll be ready to care for them in an environment that is consistent with our values of dignity, respect and compassionate care for all.”