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CAMH Stories Centre for Addiction
and Mental Health

CAMH Turns 20

CAMH at 20 banner
It was 20 years ago this week that CAMH came to be.

Born of a merger between what was then called the Queen Street Mental Health Centre, the Addiction Research Foundation, the Clarke Institute of Psychiatry and the Donwood Institute, CAMH instantly became Canada’s largest mental health teaching hospital.

Founding President and CEO Dr. Paul Garfinkel describes it as more of a forced marriage, necessitated by a provincial government in budget-cutting mode and looking to consolidate scarce resources.

But looking back now, Dr. Garfinkel says it took a lot of passion, dedication and hard work by a lot of people to make the modern CAMH a reality.

“I’m so proud.  Anybody can come up with an idea, making it work takes everybody pulling in the same direction.  It was wonderful, beautifully done.”

For CAMH President and CEO Dr. Catherine Zahn, over those 20 years CAMH became so much more than the sum of its parts.

“Our ability to play a leading role in the national conversation about mental health, our place as a global leader in research and care, our success in recruiting the best and the brightest talent in the world, none of that would have been possible before CAMH was formed.”

What also was not possible until the merger was a truly holistic approach to patient care, especially for the many complex-care cases involving mental illness including substance-use.

“Until the creation of CAMH, mental illness and substance use were treated in completely separate silos,” said CAMH Senior Medical Advisor Dr. David Goldbloom on a recent CAMH podcast. “The best example of that is the Clarke Institute of Psychiatry, 10 yards away from the former Addiction Research Foundation, sharing the world’s worst underground parking lot.  That’s about the only thing those institutions shared prior to the creation of CAMH, and that was a travesty for patients and families.”

As CAMH celebrates its 20th anniversary, we selected one milestone for each year to demonstrate how we have grown, changed and delivered on our promise to transform lives. Take a look.

CAMH turns 20 timeline screenshot


Published on March 8, 2018

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