The North Bay Regional Health Centre has unveiled its new Hummingbird Lodge facility as part of a provincial program aimed at helping women with mental illnesses who have previously committed a crime.

Jennifer Moore, Director of Mental Health, Addictions and Forensic Services, says that the new facility provides a new option for women who have struggled to recover from mental illness.

“All of the women coming to the Hummingbird Program are coming from existing forensic facilities. So, they have been part of a program already and are looking to transfer to our service. So we will be working closely with the forensic psychiatrist that they’ve been dealing with in their community. [We will be] exploring the challenges that have led them to the place where they are and why they’re not moving forward in their recovery as well as looking at whether or not Hummingbird is the place for them,” she explained.

The facility has a capacity of eight patients who will be at the lodge for one to three years. There are 22 staff members which include peer support, psychologists from different fields and registered nurses.

Moore says that Hummingbird Lodge will be different from most mental health facilities in the province.

“This is very unique to the province in that it is solely for women; trauma-informed, gender-based care… it’s very unique,” she noted. “For the mental health population, particularly the forensic one, this is so innovative and exciting in terms of being able to help women who have been stuck in the system for years. Our goal is to help move them to a state of recovery that they’ve never been able to realize.”

The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto is the only other facility in the province that offers a similar type of care, with Hummingbird Lodge taking more of a trauma-informed approach to treatment.

Hummingbird Lodge has been in the works since 2015, and was built using a $3.2 million dollar grant from the provincial government.

“It has been a very long journey,” said Paul Heinrich, President and CEO of the NBRHC. “This facility is pretty advanced. It’s completely safe in every manner and it’s built with a very specific purpose.”

Henirich says that it has been a bit of a struggle trying to bring new psychiatrists to the area, but is hopeful that projects like the Hummingbird Lodge will make North Bay a destination to work in.

“I’m starting to see a different trend and our recruitment seems to be on the uptick,” he observes.

Each room at Hummingbird Lodge will have a bed and washroom for each patient, indoor and outdoor communal areas, plus one-on-one areas for psychologists to work with patients.

With the possibility of Indigenous patients, the lodge also includes a specially-outfitted room where patients can smudge and have the smoke ventilated out.

Breanna May, an Occupational Therapist for the NBRHC says that the spiritual room will be helpful in patients’ recovery.

“It’s really important to our women who don’t have access to go out into their community to take part in some cultural activities. This space allows them to still have access to their spirituality,” she said during the tour.

Hummingbird Lodge is currently in the process of bringing in its first patient, who is slated to arrive in early October. Moore did not give a timeline as to when she expects the facility to be at capacity but did say she anticipates there being a waiting list.