Speakers

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Paris Semansky

Director of Communications and Public Affairs, CAMH

Paris Semansky is the Director of Communications and Public Affairs at CAMH – Canada’s largest mental health hospital and world leading mental health research centre. She has almost 15 years of experience in issues management, strategic communications, and public policy.

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Before coming to CAMH, Paris served as a senior policy advisor to former Premier Kathleen Wynne on education, community hubs and Indigenous relations files, and also as chief of staff to Ontario’s Deputy Premier and Minister of Advanced Education and Skills Development. In addition, Paris advised corporate clients at FleishmanHillard and also held senior advisor roles working for Ministers of Education, Health, and Children and Youth Services in Ontario.

A born and raised Londoner (Ontario), Paris studied social justice and peace at King’s University College at Western University and is working toward her Masters of Communications Management through McMaster University.

Her biggest accomplishment is as mother to her daughters, Anna (who just started JK) and Mira (who was born at the start of the pandemic). Paris, her girls, and her husband, Mike, live in Toronto’s east end.

Agnes Bongers

Chief Communications Officer, St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton

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Biography coming soon…

Eric Windeler

Founder, Jack.org

Eric started an initiative (The Jack Project) in partnership with Kids Help Phone and then Queen’s University, after losing his son Jack to suicide in March 2010. Since then, Eric has put aside his business interests and has worked in the youth mental health space full-time. With the support of his wife and cofounder Sandra Hanington, and their closest friends, this initiative grew into the national charity Jack.org, which was officially launched in July 2013. Eric works tirelessly to inspire mental health discussion and engagement, especially among young people.

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After the hiring of the new President and CEO in August 2022, Eric has now transitioned to a “Founder” role which will allow him to continue to support the leadership team and the entire Jack.org organization in this outward-facing and ambassadorial role.

In 2013, Eric received the Champion of Mental Health award from CAMIMH and the QE Diamond Jubilee Medal.  In 2015, Eric was honoured by Queen’s University, receiving an honorary degree (LLD) recognizing his work in the field of mental health.  In 2017, Eric and Sandra Hanington received the Meritorious Service Cross (Civil Division) from the office of the Governor General.  Most recently, Eric was selected as one of the 150 CAMH Difference Makers for mental health in Canada. Eric is also a recipient of the 2018 Queen’s Alumni Humanitarian of the Year Award and the 2020 Ontario Psychiatric Association’s Mental Health Advocate of the Year Award.

Tatum Wilson

CEO, Children’s Mental Health Ontario

Tatum Wilson is the CEO of Children’s Mental Health Ontario. He has over 20 years of experience in multiple health and social policy environments, including government, academic health science centres, and advocacy organizations. His accomplishments include overseeing the development of Ontario’s first Comprehensive Mental Health and Addictions Strategy and managing the development and implementation of Ontario’s first Poverty Reduction Strategy.

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Tatum has an Honours Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from McMaster University and a Master of Health Science in Health Administration from the Institute of Health Policy, Management and Evaluation at the University of Toronto. He is a passionate promoter of equity and social justice issues and a leader in community engagement, communications and advocacy.

Sebastian Benavides

BSW RSW, Team Lead, The Alex (Calgary)

Sebastian Benavides is a Registered Social Worker (RSW), social work researcher, and Certified Child and Youth Care Counsellor in Alberta where he has practiced in the area of child and adolescent substance use and mental health for over 8 years. Sebastian has worked frontline positions across multiple non-profit youth serving organizations including Hull Services and the Protection of Children Abusing Drugs (PChAD) program, where he supported young people in their stabilization and detoxification from substance abuse.

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Today, Sebastian is the Team Lead for The Alex Street Team, a proactive addictions outreach program that seeks to support individuals facing barriers to services in navigating recovery resources. 

Susan Conway

Mental Health Advocate, Member, Family Advisory Committee, CAMH

Susan is a Mental Health Advocate and retired Registered Nurse. She is a current member and outgoing co-chair of the Family Advisory Committee at CAMH in Toronto and serves on several committees, quality councils and research initiatives at the hospital as a family advisor. Susan’s areas of interest include youth mental health, early intervention, patient and family engagement in mental health care, and research. 

Roslyn Shields

Senior Policy Analyst, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH)

Roslyn Shields is a Senior Policy Analyst at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) in Toronto. In this role, she communicates evidence-informed public policy advice to stakeholders and policymakers through written and oral submissions to governments, policy frameworks, position papers and strategic relationship building. With a focus on mental health, social determinants of health and criminal justice, Roslyn works to advance public policies that are responsive to the needs of people living with mental illness, including those with substance use disorders.  

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Roslyn has over 20 years of experience in the mental health field and has held a variety of roles at CAMH, including clinical management, community development, research and direct service.   

Roslyn has a M.A. in Community Psychology from Wilfrid Laurier University.

Michele Warner

Director of Clinical Legal Services & Clinical Legal Counsel, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health 

Michele Warner is Director of Clinical Legal Services & Clinical Legal Counsel at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. She holds a Masters of Social Work from Wilfrid Laurier University (1996) and a Juris Doctor from the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Law (2004).

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Michele provides legal advice, advocacy and education services to CAMH clinical teams and hospital administrators on a wide range of legal issues, including health law, mental health law, consent and capacity law, forensic mental health law, and privacy law. She also advises CAMH on compliance with healthcare legislation and the development of clinical and organizational policies. Michele represents CAMH and its clinicians before administrative tribunals and at all levels of court. Michele also teaches on health law and mental health law, both internally at CAMH and externally.

Prior to joining CAMH, Michele was a lawyer with the Health Law Group at Borden Ladner Gervais LLP. In that role, Michele acted as counsel to healthcare institutions and their employees, including hospitals, clinics and community care access centers, in defending medical malpractice and personal injury claims and advising on compliance with healthcare legislation and the development of institutional policies.

 Deb Gibson

Director, Mental Health Ambulatory and Outreach Services, St. Joseph’s Health Care London

Deb Gibson Director, Mental Health Ambulatory and Outreach Services, St. Joseph’s Health Care London, a regional hospital and a specialized mental health care provider that is strategically focused on reaching out, connecting care and innovative partnerships to improve health outcomes of the populations served. Deb and members of the Assertive Community Outreach Team brought this quality approach to creatively engage in the implementation and evaluation of a cross sector partnership known as the Community Outreach and Support Team (COAST).

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Deb’s background includes having facilitated the building and integration of mental health inpatient and related outpatient services into a general hospital as well as overseeing the former Homes for Special Care and partnering with diverse stakeholders to enable the program’s modernization within a community governance structure. 

Lori Hassall

MSW, RSW, VP of Services & Supports, CMHA Thames Valley Addiction & Mental Health Services

Lori Hassall, MSW,RSW is the VP of Services and Supports at CMHA Thames Valley Addiction and Mental Health Services. She has worked 20+ years in mental health in both hospital and community settings in clinical and leadership positions.

Carly Weeks

Health Reporter, The Globe and Mail

Carly Weeks is an award-winning journalist who has been writing about health for the Globe and Mail since 2007. Carly has been one of the leading reporters covering the COVID-19 pandemic and during her career, has shone a light on important issues affecting the country, including the opioid crisis and a lack of equitable health access. 

M. Blair Harvey

Inspector, Community Mobilization & Support, Uniformed Division, London Police Service

Blair Harvey is an Inspector with the London Police Service where he is responsible for the Community Mobilization and Support. This area of the LPS includes community partnerships, victim support, missing persons, persons at risk and mental health response. He has been a member of the London Police Service for nearly 27 years and has worked in a variety of positions including criminal investigation, forensic identification, executive administration and uniformed patrol. 

Doug Davey

Land-Based Program Coordinator, Mushkegowuk OMA

Wahchiya Misiway, My name is Doug Davey from Moose Cree First Nation, I am Land Based Program Coordinator for Mushkegowuk OMA Askikan Land Based detox. The 7-day detox program is a trauma informed healing program geared for Mushkegowuk members in the James Bay region. The program provides a holistic approach to healing and recovery, also dealing with core issues and inter-generational trauma. My position here will be to assist in coordination of service delivery with the detox team, collaborate with service providers, assist in aftercare planning, coordinate cultural supports for participants and provide oversight for the Land based program.

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We are in the planning and development stages for our aftercare program which will involve relapse prevention, mental health supports, counseling, land based programming and various workshop formats. This will give Mushkegowuk members to continue their healing and recovery after detox. We look forward to making our official announcement once the program is fully developed, stay tuned.

A lot of my experience and training was first introduced through the friendship centre movement, by going to men’s sharing circles to maintain my sobriety and recovery at a young age. I attended Canadore college from year 2000-2003, where I completed my dual diploma program in the addictions and social service worker program. Since then, I’ve had the opportunity to work in various roles at the grass roots level.

I follow a traditional lifestyle with my family, by honoring my Grandparents by building and maintaining my spirituality with the Land and the wildlife. Meegwetch for reading!

Summer Rickard

Mushkegowuk Council

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Biography coming soon…

Dr. Daisy Singla

Independent Scientist, Institute of Mental Health Policy Research & Centre for Complex Interventions, Campbell Family Mental Health Research Institute, CAMH

Dr. Daisy Singla is a clinical psychologist by training and an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Toronto. In July 2022, she also became the first womenmind scientist at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. To date, Dr. Singla has led or contributed to large clinical trials focused on improving child growth, health and development, as well as reducing maternal depression worldwide.  She has collaborated with global mental health leaders and local NGOs in rural Uganda, Kenya, Bangladesh, Nepal, India and Pakistan.

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She now brings these innovative lessons to the United States and Canada.  In 2018, she became the youngest recipient of a $13.1 (USD) Pragmatic Clinical Study Award which aims to scale up talk therapies for perinatal populations across North America (see https://thesummittrial.com/). In 2021, she was the first awardee to concurrently receive the Janet Taylor Spence Award for Transformative Early Careers from the Association of Psychological Science, the Distinguished Scientific Award for an Early Career Contribution in Applied Psychology from the American Psychological Association (APA), and the Gerald L. Klerman Young Investigator Award from the Depression & Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA). In 2022, Dr. Singla was named a fellow in the Association for Psychological Science. In short, Dr. Singla aspires to increase access to evidence-based psychological treatments to enrich the lives of all women, their children and their families. 

Dr. Ginette Poulin

Medical Director, Concurrent Disorders, Waypoint Centre for Mental Health Care 

Ginette Poulin, RD, MD, CCFP(AM), FCPC, CISAM, CCPE, CMCBT, is a Family Physician, an Addictions Medicine expert, a Certified Canadian Executive Physician Leader, a Registered Dietitian and a former professional dancer; whom after having ventured to various provinces and countries to pursue her studies, returned to her home province of Manitoba where she established and advanced many provincial Addiction Medicine Care services.

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She contributes both professionally and personally to the well-being of Canadians through education, health services, advocacy, leadership, research and community development. She not only volunteers her time with boards locally, provincially, and nationally, but can be found anywhere across the province helping, teaching, mentoring and problem solving for the benefit of others. Covid has been a time of high need and stress in healthcare, but that hasn’t stopped Dr. Poulin from developing and offering additional support for addictions treatment as well as ways to minimize the spread of COVID throughout the province. She has recently taken on the role of Medical Director, Concurrent Program at Waypoint Mental Health Care Centre. Dr. Poulin’s dedication and passion to improving services and health outcomes are unparalleled. Her high energy is magnetizing and has captured the hearts of many. She is focused on inspiring meaningful change particularly in stigmatized and vulnerable domains. Through her hard work and devoted efforts, she hopes to contribute to a more equitable Canada for all.

Randy Fincham

Inspector, Vancouver Police Department

Randy started his career with the Vancouver Police Department in 1997. He worked in the Operations Division, as a member of the Public Order Unit and the Emergency Response Team, where he served through 2008 as an Operator, resolving high risk critical incidents. He spent three years as a Detective in the Major Crime Section, Robbery, Assault and Arson Unit, investigating complex cases, including robberies and kidnappings.

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In 2009, he was seconded to the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics Integrated Security Unit where he served as a Commander for the Olympic Torch Relay Security Team. In 2012, Randy transferred to the Public Affairs Section, where he spent three years as a Media Relations Officer, and two years as the Interim Communications Director, protecting and enhancing the reputation of the VPD, and leading the VPD’s internal and external communications strategies. While in Public Affairs, Randy assisted in developing the VPD’s Road to Mental Readiness (R2MR) first responder wellness program and became a resilience and mental wellness trainer. Randy was promoted in 2017, and served in south/east Vancouver as an Operations Staff Sergeant, and as a Section Leader with the Public Order Unit. In 2018, he moved to the Youth Services Section/Mental Health Unit, where he was responsible for developing and leading the VPD’s youth engagement programs and mental health initiatives. Randy returned to the Operations Division as an Inspector in 2020, where he served as a Duty Officer and as a Critical Incident Commander, leading the VPD’s critical incident response. In 2021, Randy returned to the VPD’s Youth Services Section/Mental Health Unit, where he continues to lead the VPD’s youth engagement programs and mental health initiatives, including police/health partnership programs; Car 87/88, the Assertive Outreach Team (AOT) and Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) teams. Randy teaches crisis communications and critical incident management provincially at the Justice Institute of British Columbia and nationally at the Canadian Police College. 

Stacey Bowen

Forensic Unit, Frontline Peer Support Worker, CAMH

Stacey Bowen is a Toronto born, Mother of 2 grown daughters. Presently Stacey works at CAMH in the Forensic Unit as a Frontline Peer Support Worker. Prior to that she was an addiction sponsor and Counselor. She has many years of frontline shelter work and is a George Brown College graduate (Assaulted Woman and Youth Advocate Counsellor).

Stacey is the first-time Grandmother of a 3-year-old and is 15 years in recovery from a crack cocaine addiction.

Margaret McKinnon

Professor, Psychiatry & Behavioural Neurosciences,
McMaster University

Dr. Margaret McKinnon is Full Professor and Associate Chair, Research in Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Neurosciences at McMaster University, where she holds the Homewood Chair in Mental Health and Trauma. She is also the Research Lead for Mental Health and Addictions at St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton and a Senior Scientist at Homewood Research Institute.

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Work in Dr. McKinnon’s laboratory focuses on identifying the neural and behavioural correlates of PTSD and trauma-related illnesses and on translating this knowledge to the development and testing of novel treatment interventions aimed at reducing the cognitive and affective sequelae of these conditions. A licensed clinical psychologist and clinical neuropsychologist, Dr. McKinnon has a special interest in military, veteran, and public safety populations (including healthcare workers), and has worked with these groups clinically and in her research program. She has published or in press nearly 150 scientific works. Work in Dr. McKinnon’s lab is supported by federal and provincial funding from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Canadian Institute for Military and Veterans Health Research, Veterans Affairs Canada, Defence Canada, the PTSD Centre of Excellence, MITACS, and the Workers Safety Insurance Board of Ontario, by a generous donation to Homewood Research Institute from Homewood Health Inc., and by generous gifts from private foundations, including True Patriot Love, the Cowan Foundation, the Military Casualty Support Foundation, the FDC Foundation, and the AllOne Foundation. Dr. McKinnon is a frequent commentator in the media on matters related to PTSD, moral injury, and the impact of trauma on special populations.

Dr. Joseph Pellizzari

Clinical Health Psychologist, St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton
Co-Developer, Coping and Resilience Support Team (CARS)

Dr. Joseph Pellizzari is a clinical health psychologist at St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton, an academic health centre affiliated with McMaster University.  He has been a hospital-based psychologist for over 20 years working at the interface of medicine and mental health.  He was part of the development of the Coping and Resilience Support Team (CARS), as one part of the hospital’s response to providing mental health and psychosocial supports to staff during the pandemic.  The CARS Team has now travelled many kilometres and logged over a hundred visits to various staff groups and units across the hospital system. 

Erika Haber-Evans

MSc, Registered Psychotherapist, Manager, Anxiety Treatment & Research Clinic and Clinical Neuropsychology Services, St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton

Erika has 15 years of experience providing specialized care to women with anxiety and depression in and outside of pregnancy and the postpartum period. She is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at McMaster University with prominent leadership roles in their Master’s of Psychotherapy Program and the Anxiety Treatment and Research Centre at St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton.

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She is versed in a range of psychotherapeutic approaches to anxiety and depression including cognitive behavioural therapy, interpersonal psychotherapy, and mindfulness-based therapies, among others. She and Dr. Van Lieshout have developed an effective group CBT intervention for perinatal depression that is used in clinical settings around the world and that improves outcomes for mothers and mother-infant dyads. She lives in Halton and is mother to two young sons.

Brian Rush

Emeritus Scientist, CAMH
Professor, Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto

Brian has worked for over 45 years as a substance use/mental health services researcher with CAMH), where he is currently appointed as Scientist Emeritus. Brian is a Full Professor at the University of Toronto in the DLSPH. He has led major treatment system reviews in Canada and internationally and prepared several syntheses of research evidence, including concurrent disorders, collaborative care, rapid access to mental health and addiction services and psychedelic-assisted interventions.

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Brian is currently the Project Leader for the multi-site study known as the Ayahusaca Treatment Outcome Project (ATOP) and is also active in facilitating the collaboration among Canadian researchers, students and policy makers interested in psychedelic science, including traditional plant-based medicine.

Arij Alarachi

Grad Student, McMaster University (Health Equity)

Arij is a first year PhD student in the Clinical Psychology program at McMaster. She works with individuals with anxiety and low mood concerns at the Anxiety Treatment and Research Clinic at St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton. Under the co-supervision of Dr. Karen Rowa and Dr. Randi McCabe, Arij researches the lived experiences, symptom presentations and treatment outcomes for adults with cooccurring anxiety and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Arij is passionate about investigating racial disparities in the access of anxiety treatment services and addressing gatekeepers and barriers within the system to promote equitable, culturally safe, and inclusive mental health care. 

Sabrina Syan

Psychologist, St. Joseph’s Healthcare, Hamilton

Dr. Sabrina Kaur Syan is a Psychologist in Supervised Practice at St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton, an academic health centre affiliated with McMaster University, and a Clinical Consultant within the Ontario Structured Psychotherapy Program (West Region). She also has Ph.D. in Neuroscience and uses this knowledge to inform her clinical practice and research. Her research focus spans across women’s mental health, neuroimaging, and concurrent disorders. Sabrina is passionate about making evidence-based psychological care accessible to underserved populations and advocating for culturally safe and inclusive mental health care.

Amer Burhan

Physician-in-Chief, Ontario Shores

Dr. Burhan is a Geriatric Psychiatrist, Physician-in-Chief and Endowed Chair for Applied Mental Health Research at the Ontario Shores Centre of Mental Health Sciences in the Whitby Ontario, and Associate Professor in Psychiatry at the University of Toronto. Also, he is Adjunct Research Professor in Psychiatry and Neurosciences at Western University and Geriatric Psychiatrist with the Operational Stress Injury Clinic at Saint Joseph’s Health Care and is associate scientist at the MacDonald Franklin Operational Stress Injury Research Centre and the Lawson Health Research Institute in London Ontario.

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He leads several pragmatic clinical trials in the area of neuropsychiatry of dementia and in therapeutic brain stimulation for resistant mental illness across the life-span in addition to being active in several initiatives to develop guidelines to standardize definitions, assessment and management of treatment resistant mental illnesses.

After graduating from the Medical College of Baghdad University he undertook a fellowship in basic neurosciences at the Montreal Neurological institute, residency in Psychiatry at the University of Rochester, and advanced training in geriatric neuropsychiatry at Western University.

He is Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada certified in general Psychiatry since 2003 and in Geriatric Psychiatry since 2013, a diplomat in Neuropsychiatry from the United Council for Neurological Subspecialties in the US since 2007, and completed a Master’s of Science degree in community health from the Dalla Lana School of Public Health and University of Toronto in 2015. He is a clinician educator and investigator and his career focus on complex mental health presentation in old age and on therapeutic brain stimulation.

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