Home News Canada Azrieli Foundation donates $10.4 million to CAMH for mental health

Azrieli Foundation donates $10.4 million to CAMH for mental health

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Dr. Yona Lunsky, director of the Azrieli Centre for Adult Neurodevelopmental Disabilities and Mental Health

The Azrieli Foundation has upped its support for the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), providing the Toronto-based mental health centre with a $10.4-million gift, to go towards the treatment of individuals with neurodevelopmental disabilities and mental illnesses.

“The gift will allow for innovative research, improved training and education, and knowledge exchange, which in turn will lead to better treatment of mental health issues experienced by adults with neurodevelopmental disabilities,” said Dr. Yona Lunsky, director of the Azrieli Centre for Adult Neurodevelopmental Disabilities and Mental Health at CAMH.

“Over the course of time, the new Azrieli Centre for Adult Neurodevelopmental Disabilities and Mental Health will be able to support fellows and early career clinician scientists from different disciplines to lead research projects and get involved in teaching activities, while also working within a clinical service targeted toward this population.”

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The gift came only a few months after the Azrieli Foundation provided an even larger contribution to CAMH of $11 million, bringing the foundations total donations to the institution to nearly $22 million.

Lunsky said the gift will give mental health providers the knowledge base to better allow them to treat adults with neurodevelopmental disabilities and their families.

The Azrieli centre will focus its research on mental health and addiction issues, as they relate to adult neurodevelopmental disabilities, such as Down syndrome and autism, considering both causes and treatments.

The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health’s site on Russell Street in Toronto. (SimonP/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 3.0)

Between one to three per cent of the population have neurodevelopmental disabilities and 45 per cent of those people suffer from mental health issues, such as depression, anxiety or addictions, said Lunsky, who is a CAMH senior scientist and a psychiatry professor at the University of Toronto.

According to CAMH, a national study published in the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry found that almost half of hospital admissions for those with developmental disabilities were psychiatric hospitalizations. CAMH already features dedicated inpatient and outpatient services.

“The CAMH centre will re-imagine care and supports for people with neurodevelopmental disabilities who have the experience of mental illness,” said Dr. Catherine Zahn, president and CEO of CAMH. “We’re sending a strong message that individuals with neurodevelopmental disabilities deserve equitable access to the resources of our health-care system and our society.”

“We know it is hard for families to find even the most basic health care when their loved ones have developmental disabilities,” said Naomi Azrieli, chair and CEO of the Azrieli Foundation. “When you compound that with a mental illness, like depression or anxiety, there is a severe shortage of options. The Azrieli centre will support the hospital’s clinical services, research new approaches, develop best practices and train future experts who will work in centres across Canada to address these growing needs.