Dignitaries reflect on 100 Years of Caring


  • Aug. 3, 2011 8:00 a.m.
Alberta Health Services board member Dr. Ray Block addresses the crowd of 250 during the 100th Anniversary kickoff at The Centennial Centre last week.

Alberta Health Services board member Dr. Ray Block addresses the crowd of 250 during the 100th Anniversary kickoff at The Centennial Centre last week.

By Adam Jackson

Provincial and local dignitaries alike took to the gym at the Centennial Centre for Mental Health and Brain Injury last week to observe its 100th birthday.

Along with the dignitaries, there was only standing room left for the more than 250 in attendance.

The crowd was treated to speeches by Dwight Hunks, executive director of addiction and mental health for the central zone of Alberta Health Services, Gene Zwozdesky, minister of health and wellness, Dr. Ray Block, a member on the Alberta Health Services board of directors, Dr. Chris Eagle, president and CEO of Alberta Health Services, and many more as a part of the 100th anniversary kickoff.

Block, who was pivotal in the development of the mental health program in Alberta, was honoured to be a part of the ceremony.

“From the earliest moments, I could see something special that you all shared,” Block told the employees and caregivers in the crowd. “It was in the way that you looked at patients and their families, and it can only be described as compassion.”

“Because of efforts like yours, we have come a very long way. We’ve become trailblazers, leading a way to a better future,” said Block. “And I have the utmost confidence that you will continue to serve and raise the bar for the next 100 years.”

Emcee Hunks had a bit of fun with one guest in particular. Eagle was invited to the 100th anniversary celebrations, but Hunks told him that it would be an informal coffee with a few members, but neglected to inform him that he would be in front of a group of more than 250 onlookers.

“Dr. Eagle, don’t expect this every time,” joked Hunks.

“There is a lot to be commended about the past, but I would like to speak about today,” said Eagle. “Staff here have been providing quality health services to not only the people of Ponoka, but to people all over Alberta.”

Eagle also made sure that the people in attendance knew how dedicated both the Government of Alberta and Alberta Health Services are to mental health.

“We’ll be adding more mental health staff to schools and clinics, we’ll have more care providers and we’ll be addressing gaps in the mental health system,” said Eagle.

Dr. Douglas Urness, a psychiatrist at The Centennial Centre for Mental Health and Brain Injury, gave a particularly interesting rundown of the history of the hospital.

From the history of the farms, to the first drugs used to the experimentation that happened around the world, Urness dug deep into the past to let those in attendance know how far the Centennial Centre has come over the last 100 years.

“The times, they are a changing,” said Zwozdesky. “And with that, you have to adapt and you have to change to the situation — Alberta Health Services and the employees here do that the best.”

“Please know that the hard work that you put in here is recognized by everyone across the country and it is even gaining international recognition.”

Zwozdesky made sure that the audience knew the province’s commitment to both mental health and health in general.

“Mental health is one of the most underserved areas in all of Canada,” said Zwozdesky. “And it’s time as Albertans that we do something about it.”

Ponoka County Reeve Gord Svenningsen and Town of Ponoka Mayor Larry Henkelman both had an important part of the ceremony — the unveiling of 14 trail markers now placed on the grounds to commemorate the history of the buildings that no longer stand.

“It was an honour to be in on this today,” said Henkelman. “This is a world class facility — every time I travel someone knows about The Centennial Centre.”

Henkelman says that one of the major benefits of having The Centennial Centre in Ponoka is that is creates jobs and helps the community.

“Economically it employs a lot of people in our community, but it’s not only employment,” said Henkelman. “They have a top-notch educational program where our youth can learn about mental health.”

“Today is about the past but the past has come and gone,” said Henkelman. “Being the landmark that it is, it should go on for another hundred years.”