Catherine Monk-Saigal, Program and Communications Associate
In each issue of Top of Mind, we profile the journey and stories of Ontario’s family caregivers –profiling organizations, groups and individuals taking action to improve the experience of family caregivers across the province, specifically in the health and community care system.
Spearheaded by two dynamic and proactive caregiver advocates, Cynthia Clark and Christine Holland, The Family Caregiver Community of Interest (COI) for Mental Health and Addictions is a provincial forum for knowledge exchange and collaboration between Ontario Family Caregiver Advisory Network (OFCAN), CAMH, and several partner member organizations, including The Change Foundation.
The COI was established in late 2016 “OFCAN viewed the creation of a family caregiver COI as a great opportunity to build collaborative partnerships with other family caregiver focused agencies and groups in the mental health and addictions sector in Ontario”, explains Clark who also co-chairs OFCAN with Holland.
The Community of Interest is primarily focused on issues related to the family caregivers of individuals with mental health and addiction related illnesses and issues. For Holland, success for the group would mean, “seeing more and more organizations (i.e. hospital, community, research) practice meaningful family engagement.” This ambitious vision, along with a goal to share knowledge, models, and practices, became the driving forces behind the COI’s three part webinar series that began in February 2017.
With a focus on sharing promising and established practices in family caregiver engagement, the webinars have also featured organizations and groups that have widely adopted such practices. Underlining each presentation is an emphasis on the importance of including family caregivers as an essential part of any care team or circle of care. In the coming months, a knowledge product will be created and distributed widely, to spread the knowledge even further. “We hope that sharing evidence of successful partnerships between family groups and service providers will inform best practices and support a platform for change,” explains Clark.
The goals for the next (and final) year of the COI’s two year project term, will be dependent on the continued interest and commitment of the member organizations. Although there is no longer any funding associated with the COI, the in-kind support of a knowledge broker from CAMH, as well as the EENet platform has enabled the group to host webinars and widely distribute research, learnings, and best practices.
Although there is an option to re-apply to extend and build on the work that the COI has already accomplished, the group plans to re-evaluate the primary focus and goal. The Co-Chairs hope that groups, organizations, and agencies in Ontario, working in the family caregiver realm will refer to the encouraging collection of models and materials accumulated. They’ve developed a wealth of knowledge in creating innovative practices which exemplify the very best practices and innovative principles for family caregiver engagement in mental health and addictions services.