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Canada's first residential program for severe OCD opens at Sunnybrook

October 13, 2017


Today, Premier of Ontario Kathleen Wynne officially opened the country’s first intensive residential treatment program for severe obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

Offering care for up to 20 patients with refractory (treatment-resistant) OCD a year, the new integrated program is part of the Frederick W. Thompson Anxiety Disorders Centre at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, expanding treatment options by offering a full continuum of care.

Residential treatment has been shown to provide a safe and therapeutic environment within which the most severely ill receive the support needed to actively engage and benefit from the therapies provided.

“This is wonderful news for these patients who experience a level of illness so severe and debilitating that they are rendered gravely disabled, often becoming homebound, and unable to function in normal activities of daily living,” says Dr. Peggy Richter, head of the Frederick W. Thompson Anxiety Disorders Centre at Sunnybrook, Canada’s most specialized centre in OCD and related disorders. “These individuals have typically failed treatment at a lower level of care (i.e. medication and/or psychological treatment) and are unable to have their needs met through the current mental health system – which then may result in no help being received, or some patients being sent to the U.S. instead.”

A program within Ontario helps to ensure key family involvement, essential discharge planning and follow up. As part of the world-leading Hurvitz Brain Sciences program at Sunnybrook, the integration of this leading-edge program within an academic health sciences centre also provides access to the latest innovations and treatments such as high-intensity focused ultrasound brain surgery (or “scalpel-free” surgery) currently being tested for severe OCD.

“The Thompson Centre at Sunnybrook serves as a centre of excellence for the treatment of OCD, and we can now say it provides the full spectrum of the right level of care, at the right time, and in the right place to ensure the most effective treatment is being delivered,” says Dr. Andy Smith, President & CEO at Sunnybrook. “Sunnybrook is dedicated to innovation when it matters most to patients and their families, and we thank the province for its support.”

OCD is characterized by obsessions, or intrusive, unwanted thoughts, images or impulses, which are disturbing, and persist despite efforts to resist them. Obsessions are typically accompanied by compulsions or rituals, which are repetitive behaviours or mental acts which the individual feels driven to perform. Approximately 20 per cent of those diagnosed with OCD are severely debilitated, resulting in isolation, poor quality of life and economic hardship. Approximately 13 per cent of individuals with OCD attempt suicide, with 30 per cent reporting suicidal ideation.

Individuals with severe OCD for whom treatment does not work collectively account for most OCD-related psychiatric hospitalizations and remain substantially impaired. Ontario spends an estimated $828 million annually on OCD including direct and indirect healthcare costs, the bulk of which is likely attributable to this very impaired and severe group.

» Learn more about Canada's first residential treatment program for severe OCD


Media contacts:
Nadia Radovini
Sunnybrook Communications & Stakeholder Relations