Improving addiction and mental health services for the people of Northeastern Ontario

July 27, 2016

Dear Northerners,

Addiction is something many people wrestle with either personally or through the struggles of a loved one. 

As health system managers, the North East LHIN is aware that addiction rates in Northeastern Ontario are higher than elsewhere in the province. 

That’s why the LHIN hired one of the top researchers to take a hard look at our addiction services and how they match the needs of Northerners. 

I’m pleased that Dr. Brian Rush, a Scientist Emeritus and former Head of Health Systems Research at the Institute for Mental Health Policy Research at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), took on this challenge and conducted one of the most comprehensive reviews of addiction services in Ontario, with a focus on the NE LHIN region. 

You can read his full report, regional executive summary, and summary of provincial implications here.  

Already the North East LHIN Addiction Services Review is gaining attention, not only here, but across the province. Addictions and Mental Health Ontario released a memo to its members saying:

“The report provides some creative solutions to address the issue of decreasing system capacity, such as integration and needs-based, collaborative planning …The report provides an excellent, in depth analysis of the issue of addiction services in the North East LHIN.”

Addictions and Mental Health Ontario notes that the need to “further enhance and integrate addiction service delivery at the systems level is a challenge that is not unique to the North East LHIN. However, by beginning the service review process, this LHIN has positioned itself to become a leader in this area.”

After our LHIN Board received the report in June, we sent out a call to Northerners to join a new Mental Health and Addictions Collaborative. Shana Calixte, our Mental Health, Addictions and Housing Officer is leading this initiative. Shana began work with us in April after previously serving as Executive Director for the Northern Initiative for Social Action (NISA), a non-profit peer-led mental health organization that grew significantly under her leadership.   

The Collaborative will develop a plan to implement the recommendations from Dr. Rush’s Addictions Review, along with those outlined in a mental health Blueprint undertaken by Health Sciences North and North Bay Regional Health Centre.

I’m pleased to say that close to 100 Northerners have responded to the call to join the Collaborative – people with lived experience, professionals working in community agencies and hospitals, addiction providers, Indigenous Northerners and Francophones. 

While not everyone will be able to participate on the 20-person Collaborative, we want to be sure to capture the perspective and thoughts of everyone who applied. Watch for an invitation to a one-day “Knowledge Exchange” forum, where ideas and insights on how to move the region forward on addictions care will be solicited from community members and stakeholders. I am very pleased that CAMH has stepped forward as a partner to help put this day together

It’s encouraging to see so many partners come together to work on ways to improve addiction and mental health services for the people of Northeastern Ontario. As a member of the Minister's Provincial Council under the leadership of Susan Pigott, I am convinced that this sector is beginning to get the attention it deserves to ensure people can access the services they need with tighter care coordination between providers. There is still much work to be done but I believe we are on the right track.