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Child mental health services return to the city

August 16, 201

Child mental health services return to the city

Canterbury District Health Board’s Child and Family Speciality Mental Health Service has re-established in the inner-city – two and half years after it was displaced following the February 22 earthquake.

Whakatata House was reopened yesterday by Minister of Health Tony Ryall and Christchurch Central MP Nicky Wagner.

Originally built as a grand inner city home around 1878-79, Whakatata House has had a number of uses including the hospitality industry and by the University of Canterbury, before it was bought by Canterbury DHB about 30 years ago, eventually becoming home to the Child, Adolescent and Family Mental Health Services.

Toni Gutschlag, CDHB General Manager of Mental Health, says the Child and Family Specialty Service occupied the building up until they were forced to abandon it in the February 22 earthquake.

“I know that the Child and Family Mental Health Team’s return home to Whakatata House has been much anticipated and now that it is here, an emotional event. A lot has happened in this house,” Toni says.

“This is a significant milestone for the mental health system in Canterbury and is the first of three of our major building works to be completed.”

Toni says staff have not only had to work out of less than ideal premises over the last two years, they have had to do this while coping with increased demands on the services that have been driven out of the quakes.

“I’m very proud of what the staff have delivered, they have worked tirelessly to keep services running and managed to reduce waiting times despite the increase in referrals.”

Toni says the service is thankful to the Canterbury DHB for investing in Whakatata House and restoring it to its former beauty.

“The reopening of Whakatata House is more than a mental health celebration; it is also a significant milestone for lovers of beautiful buildings and the inner city. Thirty people will be based here; their return to the city is another small step in the revitalisation of our inner city.

“Thank you to all the people that have played a part in the restoration process, from the people who made the decision to restore, to the architects, planners, managers, builders and tradespeople who have brought Whakatata House back to life.

“A special thank you to Joe McCarthy, Project Manager and Craig Scott, Clinical Manager.

“To the child and family service - welcome back.”

Wayne Lawson, CDHB Site Redevelopment Manager, says the engineers’ structural assessment of the building was unfavourable after the quakes and it was deemed earthquake prone.

“As a consequence of the quakes the building experienced a differential settlement of up to 88mm, there was extensive cracking of the internal walls, ceilings and perimeter foundation beams,” Wayne says.

“We had to jack the building up to re-level it – we have had to replace sections of the bottom plate, the lowest timber bearer, which sits directly on top of the foundations – without the building collapsing.

“We have taken the opportunity to re-insulate the building and upgrade the electrical systems; we have replaced extensive portions of wall and ceiling linings and generally given the whole place a spruce-up.”

The repairs and refurbishment have cost around $1.5 million.


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