Projects Improving Ontario’s Substance Use System Come Together to Share Results

Drug Treatment Funding Program knowledge exchange event

On March 13, PSSP’s Evidence Exchange Network (EENet) brought together over 100 people to celebrate a suite of projects under Health Canada's Drug Treatment Funding Program (DTFP). The event marked an opportunity for project leads to connect and discuss findings with diverse stakeholders including people with lived experience, family members, project leads and staff, partners, mental health and addictions planning leads, CEOs from the Local Health Integration Networks, policymakers, and service providers.

Since early 2015, DTFP project teams have been working to develop and implement new tools, evaluate programs, and exchange knowledge to improve the province’s substance use treatment system.

Marg Connor, Executive Lead, Mental Health and Addictions Branch, Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, kicked off the event by expressing excitement about the work.

“When I look at all of the things that have happened around DTFP, I see some of those trailblazing, groundbreaking pieces that you’ve introduced,” she said. “Keep going. Keep your eye on the prize.”

She also gave kudos to the organizations leading DTFP work, including CAMH, Addictions and Mental Health Ontario, and Pine River Institute, as well as to the members of Ontario’s Mental Health and Addictions Leadership Advisory Council (the Council).

Alexia Jaouich, Director of Implementation and Knowledge Exchange for PSSP, noted the significance of the projects, which include EENet both as a stand-alone project and a knowledge exchange resource for the other projects, connecting them to each other and to the broader mental health and substance use system.

“Clients can now be asked better questions, and answers to these questions can be fed back into the mental health and substance use system,” she said. “The system itself can become data-driven and consistent across the province.”

Woman speaking behind a lecternCouncil’s Chair Susan Pigott (pictured right) highlighted the intersections between the Council’s work and DTFP projects such as the Ontario Perception of Care Tool for Mental Health and Addictions (OPOC), and the new Staged Screening and Assessment process (SS&A). Both projects are evidence-based, supporting a standardized approach to gathering client feedback, and a standardized process to increase appropriate mental health and substance use referrals and treatment planning, respectively.

PSSP’s Implementation Teams in Toronto’s provincial office and regional offices throughout Ontario have been instrumental in supporting OPOC and SS&A rollout, and continue to provide implementation support to maximize the positive impact on quality of care. 

The afternoon began with thought-provoking keynote speaker, Dan Reist, Assistant Director of Knowledge Exchange, the Centre for Addictions Research of BC, at the University of Victoria.

“He reminded the audience to look outside the box and not always follow the status quo,” said one participant.

Mr. Reist noted that, in thinking about ways to improve the substance use system, careful consideration must be given to factors that support human health and well-being rather than on simply factors that cause disease.

He noted that enhancing resilience in individuals by building quality connections, providing meaningful opportunities for participation, and instilling high expectations, might be a worthwhile approach to take if we also want to make systems more resilient.

A panel of people sitting, talkingAnother highlight of the day was the panel sessions, where attendees interacted with project leads, as well as representatives of various agencies involved in implementing project tools.  (Picture right are the members of the first panel: Janis Cramp,  Best Practices in Peer Support; Karen Urbanoski, Internet-based Interventions for Substance Use in Youth; Kate Stechyshyn, Improving Reporting Compliance and Data Quality Among Ontario’s Addiction Treatment Agencies; Renee Linklater, Trauma-informed Substance Use Screening and Assessment Tools for First Nation and Inuit Peoples.)

Members of EENet’s Persons with Lived Experience and Family Members Advisory Panel, Betty-Lou Kristy, Dylan de la Rivière, Faith Rockburne, and Karyn Graham, reflected on their reasons for participating in the Advisory Panel, the differences between telling one’s story and providing lived experience as evidence, and some considerations for engaging people with lived experience meaningfully when trying to access this form of expertise.

Access the presentation slides.