Frequently Asked Questions
Accessing Care


I know someone who refuses to seek help and is in need. What can I do?

It is important to try and work with your loved one to ensure they receive proper care. The best way to support someone can vary from situation to situation, and there are many resources to assist you in this process including hospital-based crisis services, mobile crisis services and emergency services. If you are uncertain about how to proceed, we recommend that you contact Ontario Shores Central Intake or your local crisis centre for further guidance and support. If you or your loved one is in immediate crisis, please call 911.

The following pages list resources that may help:

I, or someone I care for, is receiving care at another organization. Can I request a transfer to Ontario Shores?

Yes. If a patient would like to transfer to Ontario Shores, he or she can work with their current treatment team to submit the referral. The referral must come from the treatment team. You may download the referral form to share or discuss with the attending physician. Please contact Ontario Shores Central Intake to provide additional information you think might be beneficial. Once a referral is received it may take several days to process as Ontario Shores must ensure all relevant information is received to ensure the individual's treatment needs are met.

I, or someone I care for, was turned away from a hospital emergency room without a psychiatric assessment. What can I do?

If you remain concerned about your loved one, please make an appointment with your family doctor or return to the emergency room. It is important that emergency room staff are clear about your concerns. If you, or your loved one, do not require emergency attention please contact Ontario Shores Central Intake for suggestions or recommendations for possible next steps. You can also ask your doctor, specialist or nurse practitioner for a referral to our Prompt Care Clinic.

I, or someone I care for, is in an area with reduced services. What can I do?

The Ontario Shores Central Intake team, works with individuals to navigate the mental health care system. Where possible Telemedicine may be an option to accessing specialized care, without having to leave your community.

I am having trouble filling out the referral form. Can I get help?

Please contact the Central Intake team and a nurse will be pleased to work with you to complete the referral form over the phone.

I, or someone I care for, was offered service from Ontario Shores, but refused it. What happens now?

If an individual is able to make his or her own treatment decisions, we must respect the decision. Often, some additional information can help someone feel more comfortable in accessing specialized mental health care. Tours of Ontario Shores can be arranged by contacting 905.430.4055 ext. 6561 or online at If you, or your loved one, have questions in making this decision, please contact Central Intake for additional information.

I, or someone I care for, needs mental health care, and is under 16 years old. Where can I go for help?

Adolescent services are available at Ontario Shores, many local hospitals and community agencies. Please contact Ontario Shores Central Intake or Durham Central Intake (888.454.6275) for further assistance with navigating adolescent mental health care resources.

I made a referral to Ontario Shores. What can I expect next?

You, your physician or case manager may receive a call requesting additional information or to clarify your needs. Once all the information is received, the referral package is reviewed with a physician. In some circumstances you may be contacted for an interview or offered an opportunity to tour the area you have been referred to. Once a decision regarding service provision has been made, this will be communicated generally within three to five days. Ontario Shores will provide you with recommendations for appropriate mental health resources if we are unable to meet your immediate needs. If you require assistance with this follow-up, please contact Ontario Shores Central Intake.

I don’t have a family doctor. Where can I find one?

The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario lists all doctors in the province. You can locate a family physician or specialist in your community through their website.

How do I get a referral if I don’t have a family doctor?

If you are considering referring to Ontario Shores, we encourage you to contact Central Intake to discuss your needs. We can help you understand which program will be best suited to meet your needs.

What can I bring with me upon admission?

You should bring:
  • Seasonal clothing such as hats, mittens and boots
  • Housecoat
  • Loose comfortable clothing 
  • Weather appropriate footwear and slippers
  • Pajamas, socks and undergarments
  • Personal hygiene products
  • Personal identification information
  • Spending money
  • Comforting items such as a journal, book or photo
  • Headphones if you wish to listen to music (only walkman or iPod)
  • Contact information for your community supports
You should not bring:
  • Expensive jewelry
  • Large amounts of clothing or luggage
  • Dangerous items such as knives or over the counter medication that has not been prescribed
  • Large amounts of money
  • Cellphones
Personal items
Personal computers, cellphones, TVs, DVD players and stereos are discouraged but are allowed in some units.  Use of camera phones is not permitted on the grounds.

Contraband is prohibited. No sharps, glass, lighters, alcohol containing products, drugs, steel-toe boots, high-heeled shoes, ropes or items forbidden by law or Ontario Shores policies.

What happens to my belongings while I’m at Ontario Shores?

Rings, watches, jewelry and other valuables are best left at home or sent home with your family. If this is not possible, you can deposit these items in the Ontario Shores vault located in the Business Office. Ontario Shores is responsible for items deposited in the vault. There is limited storage in your bedroom, but please be aware that items kept in your room are your responsibility.

How is it decided that I am ready for discharge?

A physician’s order is required for your discharge and your social worker is responsible for coordinating your discharge plan. Your discharge plan focuses on areas such as wellness, personal aspirations, social support, housing, finances, education, employment, leisure activities, daily routines and community reintegration. Outpatient services may be offered if you have been discharged from inpatient status at Ontario Shores.

As an inpatient do I have access to a telephone or computer?

You have access to a shared telephone on your unit and payphones are located throughout the hospital. Long distance calling cards are available for purchase.

You are welcome to use computers provided in a designated patient area, but signed consent from a member of your treatment team is required before you can sign on.

As an inpatient how are my finances managed?

You may deposit and withdraw your money from the Ontario Shores Business Office. The Business Office is open Monday to Friday from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. and 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. and is closed weekends and statutory holidays. There is an ATM available where you may also withdraw funds. If you are not able to leave your unit, you may give a member of your treatment team permission to withdraw funds for you.

Can I have a relationship while receiving treatment at Ontario Shores?

Ontario Shores supports the development of healthy peer relationships. However, please keep in mind your main focus is your recovery and romantic relationships could interfere with your treatment.

What food options are available?

Meals are provided on each unit three times a day plus snacks. Special diets suited to personal, health, cultural or religious preferences are available. You are also welcome to purchase meals or snacks from our two cafeterias.

Are private rooms available?

Private rooms are available on some of the units, but you may have to share a room while receiving treatment at Ontario Shores. We ask that roommates cooperate and respect each other.

How long does it typically take to recover from a mental illness?

Mental illness is like any other illness which may require lifelong support and treatment. The recovery process is accelerated by accessing treatment and recovery supports as soon as a mental illness is identified. With the combination of pharmacological and psychosocial treatment, between 70 and 90 per cent of individuals will experience an improved quality of life and significant reduction of symptoms.

How much say do I have in my treatment plan?

Patients are encouraged to take an active role in their recovery, and work together with their treatment team to set goals and discuss their progress. In 2008, Ontario Shores introduced a new recovery model of care. Recovery and Rediscover – A Shared Journey is an enhanced model of care that incorporates the recovery philosophy into everything we do. It uses a holistic, patient-centred approach to care, enhances further interprofessional teamwork and promotes excellence in care delivery. Our patients benefit from a recovery-oriented environment of care, built on compassion, inspiration and hope.

What recreational activities can I get involved in?

Recreation facilities are available for patient use. The gymnasium is equipped for basketball, volleyball, floor hockey, badminton and other activities. There is also a weight room equipped with a universal machine, free weights step climbers, elliptical machines and exercise bicycles. A games room is available and includes a bowling alley, billiard tables, table tennis, foosball tables, a piano and a games area. Your therapeutic recreational therapist will have more information about central recreation.

Family members can participate with their inpatient loved ones but must complete specific requirements through Central Recreation.

Patients and families can also look forward to a new outdoor recreation area, which will be available in the spring of 2011.

What support services are available at Ontario Shores?

Each patient is assigned a treatment team that will work with them to determine an individual treatment plan based on their goals and recovery needs. Other support services include a Peer Support, a Rights Advisor, Patient Council and Family Council. For a complete list of services offered by Ontario Shores, please see All Services (A-Z).

Are mental health services covered by OHIP?

This answer is pending.

Will I need to be on medication for the rest of my life?

Mental illness is a chronic condition that often requires life-long treatment. Medications are one treatment option, but other forms of treatment exist and may be considered. Medications are used to treat symptoms of mental illness such as depression, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Medication cannot cure mental illness, however without them patients may experience disabling symptoms that interfere with their ability to perform daily activities. If you are going to stop taking your medication, it should be with the help of healthcare professionals who can monitor your condition.

What are common side effects of my medications?

Most medications have the potential to cause side effects. Medications work differently for each person and as such some people will experience side effects where others may not. Each medication used to treat mental illness is associated with its own side effects, however, some of the most common side effects are listed below. Discuss the side effects of specific medications with your healthcare provider and please report any side effects you may experience.
  • Dry mouth
  • Constipation
  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness when changing positions
  • Blurred vision
  • Sun sensitivity
  • Changes in weight
  • Muscle rigidity and/or stiffness
  • Nausea (upset stomach)

What are the dangers of stopping my medication?

It is important to take your medication regularly to prevent relapses and possible hospitalization. Forming a routine will help you remember to take your medication. You should always be aware of which medications you are taking in order to understand the treatment and medication decision-making process and to provide the correct medication information to healthcare professionals.

How might my current medications react with new medication prescribed for my mental illness?

Drug interactions may occur when two or more medications, including over-the-counter medications and herbals, combine to cause undesirable effects. You should always consult with your doctor or a pharmacist before starting a new medication. You should always be aware of which medications you are taking in order to understand the treatment and medication decision-making process and to provide the correct medication information to healthcare professionals.

How might street drugs react with my medication?

All medications have the potential to interact with other medications, herbals, over-the-counter medicine, alcohol, smoking and street drugs. It is important that your healthcare provider be aware of all products you use in order to assess the potential for drug interactions. Medications used to treat mental illness may interact with street drugs, but the exact interactions are not clearly understood. It is important to continue taking your medications prescribed by your doctor and inform your team if you are using street drugs.

How is it decided what privileges I have?

There are various levels of hospital, grounds and community privileges. As part of the treatment process, patients are assessed on a regular basis by their treatment team to determine the level of privileges they can receive. As patients move through the treatment plan, they are granted an increase of privileges based on their recovery progress.

What are unit-specific rules?

Unit-specific rules are rules and regulations determined by each individual unit for the safety and security of patients and staff on that unit. Each unit's rules are outlined upon admission. If you have any questions about your unit-specific rules please discuss with your treatment team.

When are visiting hours, and what can I bring when visiting?

Visiting hours are generally daily from 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. however these hours may not apply to all units and patients, so it is always best to make an appointment to visit your loved one. Please check with a member of your loved one’s treatment team about what you can bring with you when visiting. (See visiting hours by area).

How do I get more information about my loved one’s treatment plan?

If you require information regarding the care of your loved one, he/she must provide consent. It is a good idea to arrange appointments when you would like to speak with a physician, social worker or other treatment team member who is involved in the care of your loved one.

Does my loved one have access to a telephone or computer?

Patients at Ontario Shores have access to a telephone on their unit. Pay phones are also available throughout the hospital. Computers are also available, but patients must have signed consent from a member of their treatment team before signing on.

How can I get more involved and have an impact at Ontario Shores?

Patients and families are encouraged to take an active role in their experience at the hospital. Patients and families can speak with the treatment team throughout the recovery process.

Ontario Shores offers a Patient Council and Family Council that provides education and support for patients and loved ones affected by mental illness.

Ontario Shores Foundation for Mental Health raises funds to support the hospital and its partners who provide services and support to Ontario Shores’ patients and their families. Donations of any size are used to support the advancement of mental health care through innovative programs, teaching, research, and reducing the stigma that keeps people from seeking help.

Volunteer Services at Ontario Shores provides a range of opportunities for individuals interested in sharing their time with others who benefit from compassion and understanding to assist in their journey to recovery.