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Laura Pearson / Executive Director

Laura joins OPDI with twenty years of experience in the Mental Health and Addiction System diverse experience providing direct service in shelters and supportive housing.  Her work history includes serving as the Executive Director of a small community-based drop-in organization during a time including of rapid transition.

Laura has also had the privilege of leading the development of a Crisis Service for Older Adults, experiencing Mental Health and Addictions crisis and acting as a manager at a hospital. With her most recent role, prior to joining OPDI, Laura had the honour of providing her expertise of the Accreditation process to a Peer Led Organization with the result of achieving Accreditation Certification with Commendation.    Laura brings a deep understanding of and a passionate commitment to Peer Support work in Ontario. 

Laura has an educational background in Sociology and Criminology, a post graduate certificate in Psycho-Social Rehabilitation and a post graduate certificate in Addiction Counselling. She has taught courses at Centennial College.  As a lifelong learner Laura seeks opportunities for ongoing learning, through courses, colleagues, friends, neighbours, and most importantly her family.  When not working, Laura enjoys being active - preferably outdoors - with her son, daughter and husband.  Laura also enjoys reading, gardening, cooking and baking. 


Barbara has a background in Business and Volunteer Management. She has over 20 years’ experience in the mental health system as a user of service, a volunteer, and a research assistant. Currently, Barbara is the Co-Chair for CONNECT for Mental Health Inc. Previous to that she was the Regional Director of the South Western Alliance Network (SWAN). Barbara maintains membership on a number of community boards and committees. Previously she served as a member of Addictions Services Thames Valley Board of Directors; of the Ontario Federation of Community Mental Health and Addictions Programs – Mental Health Council; a Director on the Patients’ Council of Regional Mental Health Care London/St. Thomas; as well as, an executive member of the Ontario Association of Patient Councils. Barbara is a provincial trainer for the OPDI Peer Support Core Essentials Program training, as well as a provincial trainer for the Diabetes and Mental Health Peer Support project. Training in Intentional Peer Support as Alternatives to Crisis and Advanced Level Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP) facilitator, added skills when she was involved in a four month demonstration project as a Peer Supporter/Peer Navigator in the Emergency Department of London Health Sciences Centre. Barbara has received two distinguished awards, the Ontario Peer Support Initiatives’ Lighthouse Award and the Ontario Addiction and Mental Health’s President Shield Award for outstanding contribution in the field of addiction and mental health. Barbara’s mantra is “Nothing about Us, Without Us”. Most importantly, Barbara has five children and four beautiful granddaughters.

Allyson Theodorou / Manager of Finance & Member Services

Allyson began working for OPDI back in 1993 in its earlier incarnation as the former CSDI. Originally tasked as an administrative assistant, she has taken on other responsibilities including office finances, conference organizer and, working with graduates of the OPDI Peer Support Core Essentials Program while they complete their internships. She is certified with Peer Support Canada, and is qualified to deliver OPDI Peer Support Core EssentialsTM Program training. Allyson lives with her husband, two teenaged boys and their dog Scout who they adopted from a rescue organization. In her spare time, Allyson enjoys spending time with family and friends, trying new vegan recipes and exploring a healthy lifestyle.




In Memory - Raymond Cheng (July 5, 1962 - January 31, 2019)

Raymond came to the Ontario Peer Development Initiative in 2005.  However, he was no stranger to the organization.  He had previously been the Executive Director of a member Consumer Survivor Initiative in Toronto.  In his position of Policy Analyst and Knowledge Exchange Facilitator for OPDI, he was best known for the NewsToGo.  The NewsToGo was born out of a conversation that the staff had over one of their many lunches together and Raymond took that vision and made it his mission to have a weekly newsletter to share information of interest to the survivor community.  Thanks to Raymond’s hard work, the NewsToGo now reaches over 600 people weekly.  Raymond loved photography and could be seen taking pictures at various events and OPDI conferences.  Previous staff members, remember Raymond for his amazing ability to scope out information on the internet.

Raymond enjoyed giving back to the Mental Health community and served as a past board member of the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.  More recently, he sat on various strategic planning committees for the organization, all with the desire of making things better for humankind.

He will be missed…


"From Madhouse To Our House"


January 9, 2019
Why the Definition of “Disability” in Social Assistance Matters to PWLE in Ontario

Ontarians head into the New Year, more than a month since the November 22nd press conference that outlined social assistance changes. Apart from remarks by the Minister at that time that any…

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