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Press Releases

London MPP introduces bill to cover devices that help with mental health

May 12, 2021

QUEEN’S PARK – MPP Terence Kernaghan (London North Centre) held a virtual press conference Wednesday announcing his new bill to extend Ontario’s Assistive Devices Program (ADP) to include coverage of technological devices used to support mental health care treatments, and any associated data costs. Watch the press conference here.

Kernaghan was joined by health researchers Cheryl Forchuk of Lawson Health Research Institute and Laura Pearson, executive director of Ontario Peer Development Initiative, who stressed the benefits of certain devices to people living with mental illness. 

“For thousands of Ontarians living with mental health challenges, technological devices that help people virtually access medical and counselling appointments, monitor physical activity, social contact and sleep data, or automatically dispense medication, can support mental health care and treatment, helping to give people with mental illness a better chance at a full, independent and healthy life,” said Kernaghan. 

“Covering mental health devices through the ADP will remove barriers to access, and empower Ontarians with mental health needs, helping many to end the cycle of crisis and hospitalization.” 

Kernaghan’s bill was inspired by research conducted by London health researchers that showed Ontarians with mental health needs demonstrated positive health outcomes once they had access to devices that support their treatment plan.

Research shows that Ontarians who use assistive devices for their mental health felt more empowered, less isolated, and more integrated in their communities – nearly 80 per cent of participants in a study by Forchuk found assistive devices for mental health improved their overall health and resulted in fewer visits to a social service provider or a hospital emergency department.  

Kernaghan’s Bill 277 will be debated in the legislature and put to a vote on Thursday. To show your support, you can sign MPP Kernaghan's petition here.


Laura Pearson, executive director of Ontario Peer Development Initiative:

“Arming individuals with technological devices to support their mental health needs will significantly increase access to much-needed treatments and supports. Through the use of technology, individuals can better manage their own mental health – giving them greater independence and higher levels of community integration. The Ontario Peer Development Initiative applauds MPP Kernaghan for introducing this private member’s bill that would allow for greater engagement in mental health services."  

Cheryl Forchuk, Lawson Health Research Institute

“The pandemic has reaffirmed that there can be no health without mental health. In the 21st century we know new technologies are available to support mental as well as physical health. We need legislation that does not discriminate based on type of disability.”



May 7, 2021


Ontario’s Network of Peer-Support Organizations Commemorates Mental Health Week

TORONTO - This year’s Mental Health Week marked its 70th Anniversary in Canada, and as the end of this important awareness-raising week fast approaches, the Ontario Peer Development Initiative (OPDI) wants to congratulate the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) on reaching this milestone and acknowledge the 50-plus peer support and consumer-survivor organizations across Ontario for the services they provide. These local mental health resources are available to anyone seeking alternative and adjunct supports in a safe and accepting community beyond the clinical model.

“Peer Support fills a critical service gap for those that are underserved, on waitlists, struggling with treatment, in crisis, have been discharged, and need a welcoming safe space for immediate relief,” said Laura Pearson, Executive Director of OPDI. “It can be the first step toward getting help, yet also an effective prevention strategy when moderating challenging life events. If you need to talk, there is likely a peer-support resource near you that is willing to listen.”

The theme of this year’s Mental Health Week is understanding emotions. Recognizing, labeling, and accepting our feelings are all part of protecting and promoting good mental health for everyone. The OPDI, as a supporter of the annual week-long tradition created by the CMHA has been encouraging people to #GetReal about how you feel with your family, friends, and peers.

“These uncertain and challenging times have been stressful for many Canadians. Over the past year, the number of people who have used our peer-support services has increased significantly,” said Laura. “It is the local grassroots organizations that deliver peer support through lived experience that truly deserve to be celebrated during Mental Health Week, for the value they provide to their communities.”

In 2020, the Ontario government released its Roadmap to Wellness: A Plan to Build Ontario’s Mental Health and Addictions System. The document recognizes the importance of integrating peer support into standards of care within our healthcare system. Peer support has proven to improve treatment plans and personal wellness journeys. Peer support is recognized as an effective form of mental health and addictions treatment by both the Canadian and Ontario governments.

“Organizations like the OPDI and the many peer support service providers across the province provide a critical, foundational piece to our mental health and addictions infrastructure,” said Hon. Michael Tibollo, Associate Minister for Mental Health and Addictions. “We will continue to work with the OPDI as we implement the Roadmap to Wellness - our action-oriented plan to build a connected and comprehensive mental health and addictions system where every Ontarian can be fully supported in their journey towards mental wellness.”

The OPDI encourages Ontarians looking for mental wellness resources  to visit the OPDI website and locate a local peer support   organization in their area:


About Ontario Peer Development Initiative

OPDI is the umbrella organization supporting over 50 local Consumer-Survivor Initiatives, Peer Support Organizations, and other programs across Ontario.  The programs and services are found in independent community organizations, Community Mental Health Agencies, Hospitals, Universities and Colleges, Police Departments and through First Responders, as well as Legal Associations.

OPDI’s mission is to acquire, understand, and amplify the unique and distinct voice of Consumer-Survivor organizations across Ontario. The experiential expertise of our peers will shape the mental health system to achieve a valued, recovery-oriented, community-base approach to support.

Contact: Laura Pearson, Executive Director OPDI | | 416-484-8785 ext. 3



Six community organizations join up to create innovative collaborative supporting mental health during COVID-19

Toronto, July 30th, 2020In order to better support the increasing mental health needs of Ontarians during COVID-19 and beyond, six community mental health organizations are pooling their resources to better serve their communities.

Empowering Community Minds (ECM) – a new community mental health partnership – brings together the Institute for Advancements in Mental Health (IAM), Community Family Services of Ontario (CFSO), Ontario Peer Development Initiative, Hope + Me – Mood Disorders Association of Ontario, Fred Victor and recently, the Ontario Brain Injury Association. ECM aims to empower and support communities impacted by mental health challenges across the province. Sparked in response to the pandemic but sustained by a shared passion for people, the collaborative aims to provide a continuum of services to improve the lives of individuals and families impacted by mental health challenges, and those who are facing new distress sparked by COVID-19.

The organizations within ECM saw COVID-19 adding new challenges to the vulnerability of already marginalized populations, who already face negative mental health impacts of social isolation, housing insecurity, digital exclusion and economic instability.

“We have seen a drastic increase in the volume and complexity of concerns our community is facing including stress within families, poverty brought about by the current social crisis, addictions, mental health challenges and more,” says Anna V. Wong, Executive Director of Community Family Services of Ontario.

Through the ECM initiative, the six member organizations are gearing to support increasing needs within the community.

“We needed to work together to amplify our community mental health response. In light of the pandemic, Empowering Community Minds (ECM) was created to pool resources across organizations and unite services to help more people,” says Mary Alberti, CEO, Institute for Advancements in Mental Health. “Through collaboration and sharing of resources, our partnership aims to fill gaps in access and services, creating healthier families and communities for all.”

The collaborative began expanding their services by offering support through online workshops in Mandarin and English for frontline workers in health, social services and mental health. Over this summer, ECM online webinars were delivered to nearly 400 people across Ontario so far, addressing key topics such as:

  • Self-care and Mental Wellness for Frontline Health Care Staff

  • Peer Support for People of Indigenous Heritage

  • Peer Support 101 in Challenging Times

  • Plan for Resilience: A Workshop for Front Line Workers

  • Working with Hard to Reach Clients

ECM webinars were designed to provide skill development to build increased resilience for health care workers serving people in our communities impacted by mental health needs

“COVID-19 has revealed new areas of need in mental health care, social services and worker self-care. By using each of our specialities to facilitate webinars on these topics, we can help close these widening gaps,” says Laura Pearson, Executive Director of the Ontario Peer Development Institute.page2image10010976

ECM’s pooling of resources this summer to deliver support online is an example of how collaboration can lead to unique opportunities and innovative approaches to address age-old challenges. Empowering Community Minds continues to work closely together to examine and address the evolving challenges facing communities during the pandemic, and beyond.

“Harnessing the power of this collaboration will be a source of health resilience within our communities and improve outcomes,” says Ann Marie MacDonald, Executive Director of Hope + Me – Mood Disorders Association of Ontario. “Our collaborative will reflect the foundation of our shared values, our awareness of cultural contexts, and the complexity of concerns within our communities, which will lead to a new exciting pathway of care across Ontario.”


About the Collaborative

Empowering Community Minds (ECM), comprised of the Institute for Advancements in Mental Health, Community Family Services of Ontario, Ontario Peer Development Initiative, Hope + Me – Mood Disorders Association of Ontario, Ontario Brain Injury Association and Fred Victor, brings together community-based organizations in Ontario to empower and support our communities. We aim to provide a continuum of services to improve the lives of individuals and families with varying mental and psychosocial abilities, within the diverse communities of GTA. Sparked by the pandemic but sustained by passion, we unite to serve our communities for their chronic and crisis needs. The collaborative works together to support mental health by offering a wider range of services to communities experiencing increased wellness challenges as a result of the pandemic.


Media Contacts:

Ania Jones
Institute for Advancements in Mental Health
Mobile: 416 819

Sarah Mortimer
Ontario Peer Development Initiative
Local: 416-484-8785 (ext. 5)

"From Madhouse To Our House"


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