LHIN Touch with Kim Baker

Welcome to my first LHIN Touch column. This is another way for me to connect and keep in touch with people and providers across the Central LHIN. I’ll share perspectives and ideas – and highlight top of mind issues I hear across our communities.

Innovation in Action

To kick off Mental Health Awareness Week last Monday, May 4, I was delighted to be part of the MOBYSS (pronounced mo-bies) launch – Ontario’s first mobile health clinic for youth ages 18 to 25. MOBYSS is the brainchild of CEO Rebecca Shields and her team at The Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) York Region South Simcoe Branch, and was introduced by The Honorable Dr. Eric Hoskins, Minister of Health and Long-Term Care at Queen’s Park. MOBYSS is a bold and breakthrough initiative that tackles head-on the stigma of mental illness, and gives new meaning to providing 'the right care, at the right time and in the right place.' Read more about MOBYSS here.

MOBYSS

Kim Baker (Central LHIN), Rebecca Shields (CMHA York Region and South Simcoe Branch) and Georgina Veldhorst (Central LHIN),  with MOBYSS

Mental Health Awareness Week – keep it going 

Keeping mental health awareness top of mind throughout the year is a priority for the Central LHIN. It’s one of our transformative projects, and as such we’re making significant investments in programs and services that will improve mental illness and encourage recovery. The stories we hear from front-line caregivers, care providers and people with lived experience underline the importance of what we are doing, and reinforce our urgency to act now. As I hear these stories, I am at times concerned and mobilized to do more … but mainly I’m inspired by the shared possibilities in front of us.

I’m concerned … because there is still a stigma associated with mental illness that we’re working hard to eliminate.

And I am mobilized to do more … because in spite of all of our efforts and funding commitments, gaps remain in the system and the needs continue to grow. Just recently, for example, the 2015 Waiting Lists Survey released by the Ontario Non-Profit Housing Association showed a record high in the number of households waiting for affordable housing. In 2014, about 3,642 more Ontario households joined the wait list – an increase of 2.2% over 2013, for a total of 168,711 households. Affordable housing is a key determinant of good physical and emotional health.

Within York Region alone – where I’m a member of the Human Services Planning Board – there are 10,580 of these households on the waiting list for affordable housing. York Region has the lowest proportion of purpose built rental housing in the Greater Toronto Area – and one of the greatest needs. What’s more, we have the highest number of hostels and domiciliary shelters in the GTA – 839 of the 1,311 that are available overall.

While these residences fill an important gap, they are by no means a long-range solution for those who desperately need affordable housing and independence to achieve a successful recovery and reintegration into society.

But in spite of these shared challenges, I continue to be inspired. We’re making great progress – working across municipalities and ministries and with our partners - to address these issues in lasting and innovative ways. There is a real commitment to change. In March, for example, Central LHIN and York Region hosted together an innovative two-day Mental Health Summit to explore the impact of housing and other issues on the status of mental health. As a result of our work, we’ll soon unveil with York Region a multi-year action plan that will direct our investments and our future priorities.

We also know there is a significant unmet need in the North York West region of our LHIN. In the coming months, we will turn our attention to how we can most effectively address the unmet needs of residents of this area who have mental illness and addictions, and chronic medical conditions.

John’s Story

I first heard John’s story in early April at a community event hosted by MPP Chris Ballard and attended by our health service providers. We announced the LHIN’s $1.2 million investment in new programs to support good mental health – most of us celebrating that we’d made it through one of the toughest winters on record. But when John spoke at the event, he gave us a dramatically different look at what it means to ‘survive’ the weather. For every day of that bitterly cold winter, John had lived in his car, warmed by the heater intermittently at night to save gas, and hoping for warm sun on the windows by morning. This would be a terrible situation for anyone – but for John, it was made even worse by his severe Crohn’s Disease (a chronic inflammatory disease of the intestinal tract), and serious episodes of depression. Read more about our investments in mental health here

Feedback is Welcome 

I’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas on how we’re working together to create healthier communities within the Central LHIN. This is meant to be the start of a two way conversation – so please feel free to get in touch at central@lhins.on.ca.