Work on the mental health and drug addiction research and training institute project continues

Algoma University, Sault College, Northern Ontario School of Medicine, and Shingwauk Kinoomaage Gamig would partner up and help with programming

Work continues on a feasibility study for a proposed Northern Ontario Mental Health and Addiction Research and Training Institute, and the president of Algoma University hopes key players in the initiative will meet at the start of the new year to consider next steps.

If it goes forward, the university, Sault College, Northern Ontario School of Medicine and Shingwauk Kinoomaage Gamig will partner up and help with programming in the hope of providing a local solution to mental health and addiction issues, said Algoma University president Asima Vezina.

“So you have a pretty large group of higher education institutes who really want to think about how they can contribute to the research and training needs of Northern Ontario and Ontario as a whole and the Canada – from frontline workers to professionals, ”says Vézina.

The institute would also bring together local service providers such as the Sault Area Hospital, the Canadian Mental Health Association and Algoma Child and Family Services.

A feasibility study is underway through a consulting firm specializing in healthcare spaces. The results of this study will determine the next steps in bringing the proposal together.

“They’re doing research across the country and around the world so that we’re looking at partnership models that work and bring back ideas that we hope we can share with key stakeholders in the community,” Vezina said. “We hope that by January we will come together to really consolidate what the partners have shared.”

Ross Romano, MP for Sault Ste. Marie and the Ontario Minister of Government and Consumer Services said his work on the case began early in his tenure as head of the Ministry of Colleges and Universities.

The original idea, said Romano, was to make the Sault Area Hospital a teaching hospital specializing in mental health and addiction.

“I was trying to find out more and more about the type of research institutions that exist in the world around mental health and addictions and I was very surprised to see that apart from a very Targeted at the University of Western Ontario, there was no one exclusive institution that functioned as a teaching teaching hospital that focused strictly on research and training in mental health and addictions, ”he said. declared.

“Since I was minister of colleges and universities, I thought it would be great if we could find a way to bring all of our educational institutions together,” Romano said.

Vezina said the plan for the institute would be for each of the schools associated with it to contribute programming.

Earlier this year, Algoma University began offering a new minor program in Health, Wellness and Addiction. Vezina said that and other programs at the university could serve as a foundation for her contribution to the proposed institute.

“We will be offering very solid programming ranging from micro-degrees to undergraduate specializations and to health sciences and masters programs in psychology and other fields,” said Vezina. “We can also provide a lot of funding through research pathways as we become national leaders in this area over time. “

“As Sault College progresses through the nursing degree program, it makes perfect sense to have nurses who have the opportunity to specialize in the area of ​​mental health and addictions. and to be able to offer specialized training in this area, ”she added.

Vezina said she was excited about the possibilities created by bringing together the Northern Ontario School of Medicine and Shingwauk Kinoomaage Gamig, to weave the best of Western science and medicine with Indigenous knowledge and practices.

“I think this makes a pretty unique contribution to the research and training field,” she said.

Romano, who studied at Algoma University, said many of the mental health and addiction issues the community faces stem from the long-term effects of the former Shingwauk Indian Residential School.

“I have walked the halls of Shingwauk Hall and there is something very special that you feel when you are in this establishment. When you are in this institution, you can feel the history of this building and you can feel a lot of pain and suffering in this building, ”said Romano.

That’s why it was important to involve Algoma University and Shingwauk Kinoomaage Gamig in the plan, Romano said.

“The residential school era led to so many issues that we see in mental health and addiction, especially in Northern Ontario, so wouldn’t it be interesting and special and a benefit in a community like the ours to be part of the solution for what is ultimately a national crisis? Romano said.

Vezina said the institute could bring a series of side benefits to the community if approved and built.

“When you build something like this, you bring all kinds of professionals to the PhD and Masters level, you will hire people, which will directly benefit the community, but you also send a constant flow of talented graduates into the world. the local workforce, ”she said.

“At the present time, we bring a lot of external people to the service of the community, we do not have enough psychologists and psychiatrists, we lack in many areas the specialized manpower necessary to work in this. domain. I think having an institute here in our own community means that we won’t have any vacancies as we see in the positions posted today.

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