Dunsmuir Lodge reinvented as privately run mental-health facility

A landmark building on the Saanich Peninsula has been brought back to life. This week, in its new form as Homewood Ravensview mental health facility, it starts the work of giving people back their lives.

Nearly two years in the making, the former Dunsmuir Lodge, after a multi-million dollar renovation, will open its doors as a private, inpatient, mental-health facility specializing in the treatment of mood and anxiety disorders, trauma-related disorders and addiction.

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“It’s been two years since I was hired and I’ve been thinking about this day for a very long time,” said general manager Robert De Clark on the eve of the facility’s grand opening. “It’s pretty exciting.”

De Clark, who has worked in mental-health and addiction treatment for 20 years, said opening Ravensview is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to re-imagine a special building, and create, from the ground up, a treatment facility and team to tackle mental health in a unique environment. De Clark pointed out the facility is on land the Saanich Peninsula First Nations call LÁU,WELNEW, or Place of Refuge, which is in the DNA of the facility.

“Lots of the local elders have said that it’s the Place of Refuge again,” he said. “And I think you inherently heal just being here. There’s something special about this mountain, this land and property. It’s pretty special.”

The building may look in places like the Dunsmuir Lodge, but De Clark said there isn’t an inch of the 75,000 square feet that they didn’t touch during the renos.

Dunsmuir Lodge was built in 1974 as a rehabilitation centre. It was donated to the University of Victoria in 1985 and used as a training facility. UVic closed the lodge in 2008 due to decreased use and the investment required to upgrade the property.

The building was stripped to its studs and most of it was replaced and some of it was rebuilt.

Each room was redone, and some of the larger rooms were remodeled into smaller ones, though there are still impressive large gathering rooms commanding spectacular views of the northern tip of the Saanich Peninsula.

The 75-bed facility, Homewood’s first in Western Canada, will offer specialized programs for first responders, military, veterans, executives, as well as adults and young adults.

Each program runs six to nine weeks and includes psychiatric care, medical care, counselling and integrated therapies with an additional one year of recovery care at Homewood outpatient clinics across the country.

The patient cost at the facility starts at $700 per night.

De Clark said there’s no question there is a need for facilities such as this, which is what drove Homewood to make the investment.

The sale, first announced in the spring of 2016 but not finalized until January last year, saw Homewood Health pay UVic $7.6 million for the vacant lodge. De Clark couldn’t give a figure, but said it’s possible they spent that again in renovations.

“There is a need and there is a need for really comprehensive treatment, not a Band-Aid solution,” he said. “And there’s a need for the one year after-care or recovery management, and we have been able to put that together.”

De Clark said their facility is unique in that it is set up to treat complex patients who have concurrent problems. Their focus is on patients with any combination of substance abuse, anxiety, depression or trauma disorders.

De Clark believes society has set the table for Homewood to make this kind of investment because mental health issues are no longer as stigmatized as they were in the past.

“There have been a lot of public awareness campaigns and a lot of changed conversations. It has shifted quite a bit,” he said. “We’re seeing more people feeling comfortable in speaking out and asking for help. Families and workplaces are more open about those conversations. That’s how society shifts.”

For the most part, the facility is ready to go, and this week Ravensview has been holding initial assessment meetings with potential patients.

There are still final touches to be done in some areas, and two wings need more work, but the bulk of the facility is done.

De Clark has 46 people on staff, including on-site physicians, psychiatrists, nurses, counsellors, therapists, and cleaning and dining staff. The staff will eventually expand to 95. The facility expects to start with about 30 patients and ramp up to 75.

aduffy@timescolonist.com

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