Update on Education Sessions

Last year in December, a call was put out to peer advocates in support services and housing organizations for participation in an education project organized by the Consumer Reference Group (CRG). The purpose of this call was to recruit peers to engage in a proposed a service user education project to better explain proposed changes to the way mental health and addiction services are accessed in the Toronto Central and Central LHINs . This project also aimed to help engage peers and community members towards more effective advocacy and service user feedback to the LHINs’consultations processes and mental health and addiction agencies themselves. The CRG Service User Education Project was planned and held over three sessions beginning late January 2016.


There was enthusiastic participation from peer advocates and volunteers from various organizational perspectives such as STAR Learning Centre, the Dream Team, Regeneration Community Services, Working for Change, St. John the Compassionate Mission, The Parkdale Anti-Violence Education Working Group (PAVE), ODSP Action Coalition, Across Boundaries, The Native Canadian Centre, Drug Users Union, Mood Disorders of Canada, Sound Times, and Habitat Services. Approximately eighteen community members and service users, took part in three intensive sessions on Jan 28, February 4 and 11 2016. The interactive sessions, using the popular education approach and a consumer/psychiatric survivor analysis were designed as a pilot/example approach to show service providers the complexities of teaching and supporting communities towards social wellbeing for all as well as, a broader understanding of the Local Health Integrated Network (LHIN) and the current state of mental health and addiction services and the proposed future state for the Toronto LHINs.


Participants were made aware of The Access Point’s mandate. Participants were encouraged to check out its website and comment on the user-friendliness of the online application form. Facilitated discussions on specific issues relating to the present and proposed models of access and coordination of housing and support services helped peers learn about and practice discussing with other peers on the complex issues in this proposal (in particular on the issues of ‘priority’ and ‘complex’ clients). Participants were also given ’homework’ by way of reading articles and reports to help clarify our understanding of the system. The interactive sessions also included a brief history of legislation carried out by successive provincial governments and its impact on people’s personal histories and the various community efforts to organize support and help for those whose needs are not being met by the system. Participants learned to move beyond the ‘lived experience’ story and become more informed in the next steps for consumer/survivors and addiction service user organizing.


There will be a ‘report-back’ session in late March 2016 for the participants to share their experiences about communication with fellow peers after this project. Hopefully, that follow up session will reveal that the project did help to educate, inform and mobilize community members and consumer/survivors and addiction service users to engage more effectively and skillfully with their peers and friends.


Upcoming opportunities for service user feedback sessions will also be made available as soon as we know more details.