St. Thomas Psychiatric Centre

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St. Thomas Psychiatric Centre
Construction Began 1937
Opened 1939
Closed 2013
Current Status Closed
Building Style Pavilion Plan
Location St. Thomas, ON
Alternate Names
  • Ontario Hospital, St. Thomas


In August of 1937 construction began on what was then known as the Ontario Hospital, St. Thomas. Built on the land of six area farm families, for the purpose of treating people with psychiatric illness, the hospital accepted its first 32 patients in April of 1939. By August of the same year, almost 1100 patients had come to reside at the hospital. Its greatest capacity with over 2,400 patients. Even before construction was complete, the hospital was known as the finest mental health hospital in the country because of its modern design. The site included 460 acres of land for the facility’s food and produce needs.

Shortly after the declaration of World War II in September of 1939, Premier Mitchell Hepburn and the Province of Ontario negotiated to lease the hospital buildings to the Department of National Defense in support of the war effort. By late October 1939, patients were relocated to other facilities across the province and hospital grounds became a training base for more than 60,000 air force personnel in the service, repair and maintenance of RCAF aircraft. At the end of the war the facility was returned to the Ontario Department of Health and restored to a fully functioning psychiatric hospital.

Upon re-opening in November of 1945 the hospital, in the words of Superintendent Dr. Lynch was “the most advanced in the Dominion.” By April of 1958, hospital admissions peaked at a total of 2238 patients. During this time, the facility pioneered many innovative approaches that supported patient health and well-being. One unique development during this time included the establishment of a 463 acre farm that provided staff and patients with the means and opportunity to participate in food production for the entire hospital.

The 1970’s through the new millennium was a time of significant change in the life of the hospital. Of notable interest was the introduction of the forensic mental health program in 1976. This period of time also saw the beginnings of mental health transformation. It was based on a new way of thinking; shifting care wherever possible, from an institutionalized model where some patients could spend long periods of time, often years, within the walls of a mental health facility to living productively in the community with proper support and resources.

In January 2001, St. Joseph’s took over governance of the former St. Thomas Psychiatric Hospital. This reorganization of mental health care was ordered by the Health Care Restructuring Commission (HSRC) in 1997. HSRC directives also called for the divestment of a certain number of long term specialized inpatient beds from St. Joseph’s to hospitals across southwestern Ontario and the construction of two new specialized mental health care facilities, one in London and one in St. Thomas.

The state of the art hospital has been built on the existing lands in Central Elgin- next to and replacing the existing Regional Mental Health Care St. Thomas building. Opened in June 2013, the new facility, entirely devoted to forensic psychiatry, better supports staff and a recovery model of care for patients by creating healing environments, providing a neighborhood and community setting which allows for individual growth and skill development and enables patients to return to community living more successfully.