When B.C. builds a new provincial mental health facility, a major amount of the private support will come from a northern corporation.
Taseko Mines Ltd. is donating $1.5 million to Vancouver General Hospital's new building that will house the province's mental health headquarters. Like the burn unit at VGH, or the specialty facilities in Vancouver for children, women, or spinal therapies, this facility will be as much for patients from Prince George and region as it is for the Lower Mainland.
The facility already exists, housed in a Second World War-era low-rise not far from the VGH main campus. Barbara Grantham, president and CEO of the VGH/UBC Hospital Foundation, said it was such an inadequate home and poor conditions for healing "you'd think it was right out of a movie."
One of B.C.'s wealthiest philanthropists, Joseph Segal, suffered a stroke and spent 12 days in the dilapidated recovery centre. He and wife Rosalie were appalled. He pledged $1 million for each day he spent there in order to build a truly effective mental health recovery centre, where the building was as much a therapy tool as the ones carried by the professional staff.
Demolition is already underway on the old place, ground will break this fall on the new place, and in two years it will be open.
"Leading edge. State of the art. A best practices environment. One of the primary facilities of its kind in the world when its done," said Grantham describing what it will represent for B.C. healthcare.
The building will be a combination of in-patient and out-patient facility. It will also draw in a number of mental health programs currently scattered around the Lower Mainland. Grantham called it a "one stop shop" for the mental illness patients of the province. It will also be telehealth enabled, so outreach and collaboration with regional mental health facilities like those in Prince George will also be beefed up.
The total bill for the facility is $84.5 million for construction. The provincial government is investing $57 million of it, and $27.5 will come from fundraising done by the foundation. Thanks to donations led by the Segal family and Taseko, they are already $24.2 million down that road.
Taseko officials said the mental health component of the overall provincial healthcare net was one that needed drastic repairs. As a company based in B.C. and operating all over the province, especially in small communities where mental health care is even less available but the impacts on families and local economies even more profound, they considered it their duty to lead the mental health cause.
"We know this is a statement-making donation. Why this statement?," said Brian Battison, Taseko's vice-president of corporate affairs. "The first reason is, our assets are in British Columbia, our operations are in British Columbia, our people are primarily from British Columbia including [company president and CEO Russell Hallbauer] and myself.
"The second reason is more personal, and really it is driven by Russ. He vowed that if he was ever in a position to do something meaningful about the state of mental health in B.C., he would do so."
Hallbauer said, "We have over 700 people and their families living in the province, primarily in Williams Lake and the Cariboo region, and although this new facility will exist in Vancouver, it will be available to improve the lives of British Columbians regardless of where they live. That is important to us. We are proud to make this contribution to mental health care and recovery on behalf of our employees and shareholders."
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