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OPDI Announces Collaboration with Laurentian University's School of Social Work!


OPDI has kicked-off 2022 with an exciting partnership with Tanya Shute at Laurentian University's School of Social Work!

We are launching a much-needed research study to understand the data collection needs and practices of Ontario CSIs.

Mutual aid and empowerment are the foundation of consumer-operated Mental Health services. Referred to as Consumer/Survivor Initiatives (CSIs) in Ontario, these are small, non-profit community Mental Health services funded by the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care (MOHLTC), as complementary programs providing services that range from mental crisis supports to social and recreational activities.

CSIs are small, under-funded consumer-run organizations, typically lacking the research capacity necessary to produce evidence of service effectiveness. Data has become increasingly critical in determining best practices and evidence-informed interventions in the mental health care sector. The challenges faced in producing evidence of CSIs' service effectiveness, contributes to the inability to demonstrate their value in the Mental Health system for funding purposes. This in turn, prevents further access to better funding that would be instrumental in enhancing their service and research capacity. Ontario CSIs need a comprehensive and collective approach to data collection to move forward as a vital and professional sector in Ontario.

As the provincial association representing our Province's CSIs, the Ontario Peer Development Initiative (OPDI) was actively seeking assistance to assess the current available data being collected by CSIs in Ontario and to improve data collection across the sector. Currently, data collection is sporadic and varies from one organization to another.

To address this need, we are guided by the following three research questions:

1) What are the current data collection practices and kinds of data collected in CSIs across Ontario?;

2) What is the potential for the data already being collected in CSIs to produce meaningful evidence of CSI service effectiveness for clients, as well as CSIs' contributions to our Province's mental health system? and,

3) How can CSIs and OPDI coordinate and improve their data collection practices to better provide current, accessible, and meaningful evidence of their effectiveness?

To answer our research questions, Tanya Shute, a researcher from the Laurentian University School of Social Work with extensive CSI experience, will partner with OPDI to achieve the following three objectives:

a) Conduct an environmental scan of current data collection practices in Ontario’s 43 member CSIs, with the help of OPDI team members and a research assistant;

b) Analyse the currently available data for its potential to demonstrate empirical evidence for effectiveness as a sector;

c) Interview 10 CSI leaders about their data use needs, and together with the data analysis results, develop strategic recommendations for future data collection and research that could address any gaps and limitations of the current data collection available.

In short, we will be looking at what data we have available in our sector, how we can use it to rebuild the current evidence of the vital and impactful work being delivered through Ontario CSIs, and strengthen research in our sector "by us, for us".

About The Team:

Laura Pearson and Allyson Theodorou will be representing the OPDI team, joined by Tanya Shute as the researcher, and Tom Walpole, our research assistant.

You may remember Tanya Shute as the Executive Director of the Krasman Centre, in the early 2000s. Since leaving the sector in 2011, she started teaching Social Work and now lives in Sudbury, working at Laurentian University in their Social Work Program. Still deeply committed to the work of CSIs, the Mad and Psychiatric Consumer/Survivor Movement, this is her first chance to return to our sector with the goal of helping strengthen and highlight the work of CSIs in her new role. She will be the one conducting the research, with help from our project’s research assistant, Tom Walpole. 

Thanks to securing Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) funds for this project, we have been lucky to have the additional resource of Tom Walpole, as our project research assistant.

Tom Walpole is a registered Social Worker with the OCSWSSW and has focused his career on furthering initiatives which value lived-experience and social justice in the healthcare system. He is an advocate for human rights, self-determination and the vivification of the Mad movement. He has worked at both a systems-level and in direct service delivery in a variety of different settings including forensic mental health, education, long-term care, outreach, and community development. Tom acknowledges that although these experiences are different in many ways, the goal of creating a comprehensive system of care that is shaped and led by those with lived-experience has always been his aim.  As a result of his own lived-experience within the healthcare system and his years of experience within the field, Tom is staunchly committed towards these goals and plans on continuing this pursuit in collaboration with the OPDI and looks forward to this ongoing relationship and our ability to make progressive change together. Tom can be reached at

Follow our project's updates on this OPDI page, across our social medial channels (Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn) or by subscribing to NewsToGo HERE. Tanya and Tom will be reaching out to invite participants for interviews. If you would like to know how you can help, or to get more involved, you can also reach out directly to Laura ( or Tanya (


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