Published on January 28th, 2015 | from CAMH
Ending Homelessness in Ontario: Addressing the Mental Health and Functional Needs of the Most Vulnerable Amongst Us
By Dr. Sylvain Roy, Neuropsychologist and the Lead Clinician at the CAMH’s Psychosocial Rehabilitation Assessment Service.
Today is #BellLetsTalk – a day where thousands of Canadians speak up in support of mental health and come together to address the issues associated with stigma. It’s a day when, as a society, we say no one should feel guilty or shameful when asking for help. It’s a day to imagine an Ontario in which mental healthcare is readily available to everyone when needed. We are not there yet. We are still living in a reality in which the most vulnerable amongst us, arguably the homeless, are not able to access timely mental health services, sometimes with tragic consequences.
Earlier this week the Ontario Government, under the leadership of Deputy Premier Deb Matthews and Minister Ted McMeekin, created an Expert Advisory Panel whose mandate is to end long-term homelessness. This panel comes at a time when several Toronto homeless men have died in the cold and our newly elected Mayor, Mr. John Tory called the city’s lack of mental health supports a “scandal.”
Key to addressing homelessness is healthy collaboration amongst professionals. Interprofessional collaboration is crucial in addressing the bio-psycho-social factors interfering with persons’ ability to function independently in the community. Homelessness is complex and many factors in addition to poverty and unaffordable housing must be considered. The individuals I serve struggle with even the smallest things we tend to take for granted. This includes walking up a few steps, bathing, getting dressed, preparing meals and paying bills on time.
In the following piece, I share my ideas for effective solutions to address the complex mental health and functional needs of homeless individuals. Intervention must begin with a comprehensive bio-psycho-social assessment that takes into account brain-behaviour relationships as well as functional skills. In the article, I explain why increasing access to psychologists in Ontario makes sense, and why having the right care at the right place is critical in helping everyone reach their full potential.
I wish the Panel well in their deliberations and applaud the strong leadership of Deputy Premier Deb Matthews, Ministers McMeekin and Hoskins and Mayor John Tory.
A link to my article can be found here: psych.on.ca/OPA/media/Public/News%20briefs/January-NewsBrief-Ending-Homelessness.docx
Follow Dr. Roy on Twitter @DrSylvainRoy
Dr. Sylvain Roy is a registered neuropsychologist and the lead clinician at the CAMH’s Psychosocial Rehabilitation Assessment Service. He does work with the homeless at Inner City Family Health Team and he is also the Co-Chair of the Ontario Psychological Association’s Primary Health Committee. Dr. Roy’s clinical practice is focused on the assessment and rehabilitation of patients with severe and persistent mental illness and brain dysfunction.