CAMH renews property lease

Ontario’s only 24-hour emergency psychiatric facility will remain at 250 College Street

The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) has agreed a 20 year lease extension with landlord Brookfield Asset Management at their 250 College Street location. The property land is currently zoned for institutional use only. Although individual lease rates cannot be disclosed, CAMH Senior Media Relations Specialist Sean O’Malley has stated that “patient care has not been impacted” by the new lease agreement.

In 2015, Brookfield Asset Management sought to increase the rent of the facility by approximately 333 per cent. This rent hike was based on the fair market value of the land in October 2014. While Brookfield Asset Management determined the property value to be approximately $103 million, CAMH determined its value at $26 million. In November 2015, an arbitrator valued the land at $55 million.

It was reported in the National Post that Brookfield Asset Management intended to redevelop the site into condos. In an email to The Varsity, Brookfield Asset Management Vice President of Communications Claire Holland denied this, writing that there has not been a plan to redevelop the site” and that “discussions around possible uses of the land were carried out as part of a (standard) process to determine rent when the lease was extended.”

CAMH’s 250 College Street location houses Ontario’s only 24-hour emergency psychiatric facility, where 10,674 visits were reported in 2016. 23.7 per cent of these emergency visits were from youth aged 16–24. According to CAMH, “young people aged 15 to 24 are more likely to experience mental illness and/or substance use disorders than any other age group.”

Located 600 metres from Sidney Smith Hall, many U of T professors hold positions and conduct research at CAMH. In 2015, the two collaborated on a full-day mental health conference which focused on enhancing mental health awareness and literacy while reducing stigma.  

The demanding requirements of attending university may make it difficult to identify mental illness from responses to everyday stress and emotion. “The line is quite blurry and oftentimes people do not realize when it is time to seek help” Dr. Bonnie Kirsh, Associate Professor in the Department of Occupational Science and Occupation Therapy, told The Varsity.  

“Many [students] do not want to take time out of their studies to seek help, or they think they should be able to go it alone,” Kirsh said. She ascribes this to the competitive nature of university.

“Crises happen at all hours of the day and night,” said Kirsh, which makes access to 24/7  psychiatric services very important. As per the lease renewal, CAMH’s will continue to operate at 250 College Street until at least 2038.

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