Thoughts of a psychiatric hospital often evoke unpleasant, dark images but one Hamilton hospital is aiming to turn that perception around with a $581-million facelift to a local facility.

The new West 5th Campus of St. Joseph's Healthcare Hamilton opened on Jan. 23 as the new The Margaret and Charles Juravinski Centre for Integrated Healthcare. Previously known as the Hamilton Psychiatric Hospital, the building is now an innovative facility that has integrated an open and airy design with a fresh approach to mental health treatment.  

The new hospital will focus on treating several types of health issues from diabetes to schizophrenia, from alcoholism to MRIs. It will also be home to a new academic health sciences centre where the focus will be on researching the causes and treatment of addiction and mental illness.

“We’re breaking down the traditional barrier that exists between these different types of healthcare,” Hospital spokesperson Megan Bieksa told

“Just as there is no shame in getting an MRI to diagnose an illness, or seeking medical treatment for diabetes, there should be no shame in seeking mental or addiction care.”

The new 855,000 square foot facility also features a number of improved security features for in patients with mental illnesses. This includes private rooms that have security key access and different areas that have different degrees of security. This is meant to help patients transition back into public life.

“As patients progress through their treatment and recovery, they will have therapeutic passes that will allow them greater access to each zone,” Bieksa said. “The emphasis on design has been focused entirely on providing patient privacy and dignity in recovery, while balancing a safe space for all.”

With the new graduated security feature patients will be able to explore the campus including 8 kilometres of walking trails, baseball diamonds, soccer fields, and gardens, which will also be accessible to the public.

The renewed focus on safety comes after a highly publicized incident at the former Hamilton Psychiatric hospital.

In May of 2012, Michael Brewer, a 30-year-old schizophrenic patient from Brantford was beaten to death by a fellow psychiatric patient. An investigation revealed that during a smoke break, Tyler Valcheff punched Brewer to the ground and stomped on him repeatedly. Brewer died of blunt force trauma to the head.

Brewer’s family filed a lawsuit against the hospital. They claim the facility was overcrowded, understaffed, and insufficient video surveillance and inadequate security all led to the death of their son and brother. The hospital says the matter is still before the courts.

Ontario NDP leader and Hamilton MPP Andrea Horwath told she expects the new hospital will offer a safe, comforting place for mental health patients and their family.

“I’m hopeful this new facility will provide not only excellent services for the people in Ontario who need those services, but also services that are safe,” Horwath said.

“There have been negative incidents in the past few years and I’m hopeful with this facility and proper staffing, will make sure not only will there be services provided but family members can be sure their loved ones are receiving service in a safe environment.”