Fonds - Donwood Institute fonds

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Donwood Institute fonds

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  • 1955-1998 (Creation)

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1.74 m of textual records and other material

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Administrative history

The Donwood Institute, located at 175 Brentcliffe Road, Toronto, Ontario, opened in March 1967 at the instigation of Dr. R. Gordon Bell. Beginning two decades earlier in 1946 when he opened his first clinic in his own home, Dr. Bell had sought to provide an alternative setting for people in need of mental health services. Bell approached the Minister of Health who suggested he take advantage of an old statute that allowed doctors to take up to four patients into their own homes for treatment without a hospital license. His first clinic, Glenmaple, was open briefly in 1946-47. His only patients, much to his surprise, were alcoholics. Mary Epp answered Dr. Bell’s ad for a nurse. She was at Glenmaple when the first patient was admitted and stayed for the next 29 years. It soon became necessary to move to larger facilities. Thus Shadow Brook, Bell’s second clinic, was open from 1947 to 1954. His third treatment facility, the Bell Clinic, admitted patients from 1954 to 1966. In the mid-1960s, Dr. Bell realized that he needed to start planning for an institution that could continue independent of him. He purchased a wooded property along the Don River and built the Donwood Institute. Half of the funds to build the Donwood were donated by former patients. In March of 1967, the Donwood opened with a small staff. Shortly thereafter, Bell donated the property to the government. Within three months, Donwood was operating at its full patient capacity of forty-nine. It has maintained a waiting list ever since. Three months after its opening the Ministry of Health designated the Donwood as a special category of hospital – the first public hospital in Canada specifically for the treatment of addiction. It was still considered a controversial area of health care and many doctors did not want to deal with what they did not consider an illness, just immorality. Bell also had to overcome strong opposition from people living nearby who did not want such a hospital in their neighbourhood. But Bell’s efforts carved out a treatment and research field independent of the medical establishment and garnered new respect for the problem of addiction. Among the multidisciplinary staff at the Donwood were physicians, nurses, psychologists, dietitians, physical education, relaxation, yoga and Tai Chi instructors, a chaplain and former substance abusers. Dr. George Birtch was the director of the continuing therapy program and later the spiritual director at the Donwood. In 1968 the American Assocation Against Addiction formed to facilitate adaptation of the successful Donwood method in the United States. The following year, the Donwood was approved as a public charity both by the United States Treasury and under the Income Tax Act in Canada. Bell’s idea was to set up a non-threatening, non-institutional caring community of mutual support that balanced a person’s physical, psychological, social and spiritual well-being. All patients were accepted for treatment on the understanding that they would agree to participate in the 3-phase treatment program for a minimum of two years. In the first phase, the medical staff treated any acute condition, such as intoxication or withdrawal, and managed any other medical problems. A careful examination of the patients’ physical, mental and social status was also conducted. In the second phase, the multi-disciplinary staff assumed the responsibility for the first four weeks of therapy, education, and counseling, much of which was done on a group basis. The long-term goals of the health and recovery program at the Donwood were the interruption and progressive inactivation of dependence on alcohol and drugs, optimal repair of the related problems, and involvement in a total-health program directed toward a balanced improvement in physical, psychological, social and spiritual well-being. The third phase involved one or more meetings a week to sustain and reinforce these goals during the first year, and bi-monthly meetings in the second. Patients were strongly advised to attend AA meetings and the Donwood staff maintained contact with those from out of town by weekly correspondence or by telephone. The follow-up health and recovery therapy was designed as an essential extension of the caring-community support system. Bell also pioneered a day treatment and evening outpatient program for substance abuse. Further, he organized a three and a half day education and therapy program for families that was offered bi-monthly. Family members who could not attend due to distance were sent a copy of the written lecture series each week—much like a correspondence course. In the 1970s Bell began giving seminars across the U.S. on the treatment of addiction and provided training at US Naval bases. Bell’s daughter Linda continued the training role and still does training all over the world. The LeDain Report of 1972—dealing with the non-medical use of drugs—gave important, favourable reference to the Donwood methods and results. In 1971, training courses were developed in neighbouring Northlea United Church for families, employers and professionals from Canada and the United States. In 1973, in order to relieve the pressure for admission to the hospital program, and to explore the feasibility of developing an effective treatment plan without hospital costs, a day clinic for selected patients was opened; Day Clinic patients used the J.S. McLean mansion, sublet from Sunnybrook Hospital. These congenial arrangements helped temporarily ease concerns over the lack of space available at the Donwood. The Canadian Council on Hospital Accreditation contacted the Donwood in 1976 to ask if they might help to develop guidelines for the accreditation of addiction treatment programs. Donwood then became the first addiction treatment hospital in Canada to be accredited by the council. In June of 1978, the Ministry of Health for Ontario contributed over $400,000 toward the purchase of the Divadale Estate, a property contiguous with the Donwood and owned by Sunnybrook Hospital. The old house was demolished. Still desperate for space, in October of the same year the Donwood purchased 7.2 acres from the University of Toronto for $850,000. In November, the Donwood acquired its first portable hut from the Ministry of Health. The ground-breaking for the Donwood’s long-awaited expansion occurred on May 26, 1985 and was completed in 1997. The new building roughly doubled the operational space of the old building. However, as the Donwood had been renting space from the Northlea United Church and had four portable units in use, the expansion added very little actual operating space. Yet the important thing it did provide was a much more appropriate, suitable quality of space in which to carry out the Donwood’s functions. Dr. Bell served as President and Executive Director of the Donwood since its inception. Though he maintained the title of President until the early 1980s, Dr. Doug MacDonald took over as Executive Director in 1971. Dr. MacDonald remained in his capacity—now serving as both President and Executive Director--until Dr. Maris Anderson’s arrival in the early 1980s. Dr. Narendra (Nath) Nayar was hired as President and Chief Executive Officer of the Donwood in April 1985. His tenure, however, was brief; Dr. Nayar died of leukemia in January of 1987. Later that year, Dr. David Korn was appointed the Donwood’s President and Chief Executive Office; he commenced his work in 1988. The Donwood and Dr. Bell’s accomplishments were further acknowledged and rewarded when Bell received the Order of Canada from Governor General Edward Shreyer in 1982. Selective bibliography: A Special Calling: My Life in Addiction Treatment and Care by R. Gordon Bell, M.D. Stoddard Publishing, 1989. From Vision to Legacy by Honey Fisher. CAMH, 2000.

Custodial history

The material was transferred as a separate series of inactive records from the custody of The Donwood Institute to CAMH custody during the (four) institutional mergers of 1998. The material was then transferred in 2003 to the custody of the CAMH Archives and physically relocated to Archives’ storage facilities at the Queen Street Site. The CAMH Archives processed it for conservation, arrangement and description later in 2003.

Scope and content

The fonds consists of textual records, videotapes, audiotapes, photographs, films and slides relating to the functioning of The Donwood Institute. Textual records include annual reports, fundraising and long-term planning information, focus group and program reports, informational brochures, staff profiles, newspaper and periodical articles, and conference agendas. Non-textual material highlights staff, activities, presentations, an informational video series and treatment goals and objectives. Fonds consists of the following series: Planning Fiscal Professional Education Outreach and Public Affairs Staff Media Audiovisual

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A detailed finding aid with file and some item level control in a MS Access 2000 database is available.

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