In many ways, the history of the Queen Street West site and its physical evolution are the history of mental health care in Canada. The address has been home to a mental health facility for over 160 years, since the opening of the Provincial Lunatic Asylum in 1850 to house patients in often difficult conditions.
The changing view of mental health can be seen in the institution's various name changes over the years. Originally Provincial Lunatic Asylum, it was renamed Asylum for the Insane in 1871, Hospital for the Insane in 1905, and simply Ontario Hospital, Toronto as of 1919. In 1996, it became Queen Street Mental Health Centre and finally, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) in 1998.
Today's CAMH was formed from the merger of the Queen Street Mental Health Centre, the Clarke Institute of Psychiatry, the Addiction Research Foundation and the Donwood Institute. The Health Services Restructuring Committee, an independent agency appointed by the provincial government to redesign the Ontario health system, tasked CAMH to address four key challenges: quality of care, access to care, fragmentation of services and stigma—a mandate CAMH continues to grow to this day.
A Cornerstone of Our History
Watch the story of the return of CAMH's oldest historical artifacts: the 1846 silver cornerstone plaques from the Provincial Lunatic Asylum. They were discovered when the building was demolished in 1976 and then turned up in a farmhouse in Trenton, Ontario, before being returned and displayed at CAMH.