Not that long ago, according to Daniel Colson, the service now known as Dunham House was on the verge of is appearing.
Then known as the NuHab Centre, a group home for people with mental health and addiction issues, the facility was trying, and failing, to find a new home where it could expand on the mission started in Ascot Corner years ago.
“Unfortunately whenever it became known who we were and what we were planning to do, invariably people would tell us how wonderful they thought what we do is, but couldn’t we do it 20 miles down the road?” recalled Colson, who serves as the Deputy Chairperson of the Dunham House Advisory Board, explaining that NuHab was turned away from three different communities before finding its new home in Dunham. “Frankly it’s almost a miracle,” he added. “For about a year there I was beginning to think we would never continue to exist.”
More than continue to exist, however, the centre was given a new lease on life and in April of 2018, less than a year after moving the centre to its new site, Colson received word that he would be receiving the AMI-Quebec Award for Exemplary service in the Field of Mental Illness.
“(AMI-Quebec) is a very effective and successful organization; they do a hell of a job,” Colson said. “For them to recognize and appreciate what we are doing at Dunham House is great, I was very pleasantly surprised.”
According to the letter from AMI Quebec, the award is given each year in recognition of individuals who provide extraordinary care to persons with mental illness and to their families. “Continuing changes and budget cuts to Quebec’s healthcare system present many challenges in many domains, mental health among them,” the letter reads. “Your indefatigable efforts to ‘compensate’ for the shortcomings of the public system have been exemplary, and your engagement and dedication have been truly inspiring.”
Although the award was presented to Colson specifically, the deputy chairperson said that he sees it as badge of honour for the facility as a whole.
“It may and should help Dunham House,” he said, likening the recognition to the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval. “It validates the centre for those who have been supporting us financially and otherwise.”
Colson spoke with pride of the work that has gone into Dunham House in the last year and a half, explaining that a part of the reason why the centre changed its name lies in the dramatic improvements that have been made to services and facilities.
“You wouldn’t get (NuHab and Dunham House) confused in any way, shape, or form,” he said. “Nuhab was basically a group home; it only accommodated up to 10 people and had few or no professional staff. This is a treatment centre for people with mental health issues. It’s staffed by professionals who are very well educated, very well qualified, and very experienced.” Colson pointed out that Dunham House is the only residential facility for people suffering from mental illnesses and “concurrent disorders” that offers programming and support in English in the entire Province of Quebec.
“My son was here for a while, and that’s what prompted me to decide that the English speaking community in Quebec needed and deserved better than what was otherwise available,” the deputy chair said, explaining that although there are other residential centers, they remain inaccessible to people whose mother tongue is not French. “The people who come to Dunham House come from all across the province.”
Due to the needs of the community and the availability of services only through Dunham House, Colson said that the centre is already talking about the possibility of expanding.
“We bought the place two years ago this coming December and then we spent four months gutting and renovating it,” he said, noting that the team essentially made the existing buildings like brand new. “We currently can accommodate 28 residents and we’re looking, at the moment, at expanding into an additional wing that would give us another 20 beds.”
Looking into the future, Colson said that he can’t see the centre growing beyond those 20 additional beds because overcrowding would take away from the work the centre does to try to help those who cannot help themselves, but he acknowledged that there will continue to be need for mental health support.
“Sadly mental illness is a growth industry,” he said. “It’s everywhere you look.” By comparison to the troubles Dunham had in the past, Colson said, things couldn’t be more different.
“We have been extremely well received in Dunham, both by the town and by the people who live nearby,” he said. “At the moment everything is terrific.”