Victoria Hospitals Foundation responds to increasing mental health needs in Victoria; Island Savings kick-starts $1 million campaign with $120,000 investment to equip new unit and increase mental health services capacity at Royal Jubilee Hospital

Pictured from left to right: Tom Siemens, Board Secretary, Victoria Hospitals Foundation; Avery Brohman, Executive Director, Victoria Hospitals Foundation; Kendall Gross, President, Island Savings; Dr. Wei-Yi Song, Department Head of Psychiatry and Medical Director for Mental Health and Substance Use Services for Island Health


The Victoria Hospitals Foundation announced its latest community fundraising campaign today, entitled Equipped to Heal, with a focus on mental health. Over the next several months, the Foundation aims to raise at least $1 million for Mental Health and Substance Use (MHSU) Services at Royal Jubilee Hospital (RJH) to respond to the increasing demands on the hospital. The campaign was launched as a response to community appeals. Compelled by the campaign focus and the desire to build better lives in the community, Island Savings is kick-starting the campaign with a generous pledge of $120,000. Donors to the campaign will equip a newly opened Sub-Acute Unit at RJH which increases psychiatric inpatient capacity by up to 35%.

“For too long, people experiencing mental health emergencies have struggled to access the services they desperately need,” says Sheila Malcolmson, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions. “Our hospitals are a vital part of a comprehensive system of mental health and addictions care, and I applaud this campaign to support people in Victoria on their wellness and recovery journey.”

“While there is a long-awaited end in sight to COVID-19, we can’t see one yet for mental illness. Equipped to Heal aims to support the other crisis BC is facing—mental illness”, says Avery Brohman, Executive Director of the Victoria Hospitals Foundation. “As a foundation, we listen to our donors, Island Health, caregivers, and our community. We hear you, and we agree: it’s time to dedicate a campaign to mental health. We are inspired to work with our community champions like Island Savings to make a positive change in mental health care delivery for the South Island.”

“Helping our communities thrive is a part of who we are, and we know that an individual’s mental health plays a key role in that,” says Kendall Gross, President of Island Savings. “As a member-owned financial co-operative, it’s the support of our members that enables donations like this to happen and we’re proud to partner with the Victoria Hospitals Foundation to help strengthen mental health resources on the Island.”

Equipped to Heal will fund equipment for the newly opened Sub-Acute Unit in the Eric Martin Pavilion on the RJH campus. The unit—the first of this kind for Island Health—focuses on patients’ psychosocial rehabilitation. Offering a new level of care, it helps re-integrate patients into the community by completing a recovery plan with strategies to achieve goals; connecting patients to MHSU community services for continuity of care; and engaging family, friends, and peer support workers for ongoing support.

Patients benefiting from the care provided in the unit have a wide range of mental health and substance use disorders, including concurrent disorders, schizophrenia and other psychosis, mood disorders, and severe anxiety. They are often at risk of re-admission to the hospital, a challenge the unit is looking to address by supporting individuals’ psychosocial rehabilitation. The unit will add up to 19 beds, increasing inpatient bed capacity for MHSU patients by up to 35%, an urgent need as existing Mental Health and Substance Use beds are often at capacity.

Donors to Equipped to Heal will invest in much-needed technology advancements, beds, renovations, and upgrades necessary to optimize the unit and its services for better patient experiences and outcomes. Supporters will also help fund research to innovate the delivery of mental health and substance use services.

“As a psychiatrist, I am here to advocate for my patients and the expansion of mental health services in our hospitals and in our community,” says Dr. Wei-Yi Song, Department Head of Psychiatry and Medical Director for Mental Health and Substance Use Services for Island Health. “Mental illness impacts the well-being of one in five Canadians, yet due to stigma it is greatly undervalued as a healthcare priority in our country. We can change that. The support of our mental health patients through this campaign is an important step forward.”

Mental Health and Substance Use is a core area of care within Island Health. On average, 48 patients receiving inpatient care at RJH in a given day have a primary mental health and substance use diagnosis.

“I am so pleased that the Victoria Hospitals Foundation has agreed to support a focus on Mental Health,” says Elin Bjarnason, Vice President – Clinical Operations, South Island for Island Health, and a Board member for the Victoria Hospitals Foundation. “Many have experienced increased mental health challenges through COVID-19. Donors to the Victoria Hospitals Foundation have rallied behind our ICU, imaging, and cardiac teams in recent campaigns, and we are hopeful they will now support our mental health caregivers and patients. Equipped to Heal makes a true, direct impact on care delivery for our mental health patients.”

The Foundation is grateful to the many donors who have generously supported mental health care at Royal Jubilee and Victoria General hospitals over the years. It also acknowledges the bravery of our local caregivers and patient spokespeople who will be sharing their healthcare journeys in the coming months.

While the Foundation aims to raise at least $1 million in the next several months, they are willing to do more if the community can do more for the MHSU care teams. The Foundation aims to work with donors individually to support this demand in local healthcare.

Contributions to Equipped to Heal can be made by donating online at, calling directly at 250-519-1750, or mailing a donation to Wilson Block, 1952 Bay Street, Victoria BC, V8R 1J8.