Salus has been an unwavering champion for people living with mental illness for more than 40 years. We provide a first step in the recovery process — a stable home environment — including a transitional rehabilitation program, shared homes and independent living. We also provide mental health programs and services that are customized to meet each of our clients’ unique needs on their journey to well-being and independence.
Salus was formed in the 1970s by a dedicated group of concerned parents, social workers, and doctors in the Ottawa area. Salus, a Latin word meaning “health and wellness” was chosen as the name of our new community minded organization.
Until the 1950s, availability of psychiatric treatment in Canada was very limited, mostly to provincial mental hospitals. In the 50s and 60s, the introduction of antipsychotic and antidepressant drugs made treatment of illnesses more effective. Hospital stays were shortened, and provincial mental hospitals began to close. This was referred to as deinstitutionalization.
At first, people thought that all psychiatric patients needed was access to psychiatric care and medication. For many, this was true.
Our founders, however, were concerned that far too many vulnerable people with severe mental illnesses were being discharged from hospitals without adequate supports. For these people, hospitals had provided treatment, housing and recreation. Releasing people with severe mental illness into the community without supports would often result in re-hospitalization and worse.
Beginnings were very simple and full of challenges. Since there was no money at all, Salus began by encouraging clients referred to us to pool their resources. Three or four clients would live together, sharing the rent and other costs. Unfortunately, this initial approach faced some hurdles. Residents often had poor social skills, and ran into conflicts.
Salus then decided that it needed to set up a staffed home where clients could learn social and practical skills. Funding was hard to obtain, but unwilling to let the project die, three board members personally guaranteed a bank loan, and a home in Centretown Ottawa was purchased. Another founding board member, a social worker, agreed to work for Salus without any guarantee that she would be paid. Eventually, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation provided money to repay the mortgage and in August 1979, the Ontario Ministry of Health agreed to provide funding for operations. Salus was on its way.
In the decades since its humble and precarious beginnings, Salus has grown to become a respected and professional organization with over 100 staff. Salus support services include case management, community development, recreation, rehabilitation and occupational therapy. We provide a range of all of our services in French and English and many are provided to Deaf clients, as several of our staff are trained in American Sign Language and langue des signes québécoise.
Salus now owns nine apartment buildings, a single family home, and two shared living homes. We also provide two residential rehabilitation programs. We are bringing hope and a place to call home to hundreds of adults in the Ottawa area. We have started Neighborhood Watch programs, are avid gardeners, and have created innovative programs that involve music, art and recreation. Our clients, their families, and the community, are integral in the work we do.