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CHEO’s mental health unit expansion thanks to generous donors

For years, 18-year-old Pablo Maya has battled with depression and anxiety.

In a four-year span, there were four visits to the emergency department and a five-night stay at CHEO’s inpatient program.

“I chose to trust my therapist and they determined I should be admitted to the CHEO 6 East,” he said.

“Sometimes, when we are in a dark place, we need support from caring professionals to help us work through the crisis,” said Dr. Joshua Smalley, with CHEO’s Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

The children’s hospital provides one of the largest child and youth mental health services in Ontario. In 2022, more than 7,000 outpatient encounters were logged, and that surge in demand was being addressed without the proper care facilities.

“We found the rooms were cold, they didn’t have a lot of welcome features,” explained Maya’s mother Wendy. “Damage on the walls, they were beige, there weren’t many supplies for kids. It’s scary for the child, for the parents, and to leave them in a space like this felt very wrong.”

Now, through the help of generous donors, $1.5 million was gifted to CHEO to cover the renovation and construction costs.

“It’s located close to our emergency room and it’s a really great space that has four new beds and can help support youth who need admissions for up to 72 hours,” said Smalley.

For the Maya family, they believe these upgrades make all the difference for those experiencing something similar to Pablo’s journey.

“It’s less institutionalized of a feeling,” he said. “There’s colour on the walls; art, so to speak. It feels more like you’re entering a place of care than it does an asylum.

“We’re so grateful this unit can be created and developed,” added Wendy. “We know a lot of heart and soul went into this space, but more needs to come. We hope the donations continue.”

Your continued support helps the children and youth at CHEO live their best lives. Visit cheofoundation.com to donate today.

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