Spinal Cord Injury Ontario


Better Together: SCIO Peer Town Hall

On March 30, our community came together for our first Town Hall of 2021; geared to our core community of people with a spinal cord injury (SCI) and their families, this virtual event allowed people from across the province to attend. There were brief presentations followed by discussions that were insightful and engaging.

Shaun Westlake, Secretary of the SCIO Board of Directors started things off by speaking about the need to hear the voices of our community. He reinforced that the meeting was not just a presentation but an opportunity for our community to provide feedback on how SCIO is doing and what they would like to see us doing as we move forward.

Stuart Howe, CEO of SCIO, then provided new updates about the closure of the Ontario Neurotrauma Foundation (ONF); while also reassuring the community that SCIO is prioritizing a new neurotrauma funding strategy as well as a new case for support for fundraising to increase SCIOs role in furthering our advocacy work. He encouraged attendees to connect with SCIO if they would like to be a part of helping us increase our reach or to find out more about our new initiatives.

Following that, Sheila Casemore, Director of Client Services, highlighted the mental health concerns that many Canadians are now experiencing in light of the ongoing pandemic. According to Statistics Canada, more than half of Canadians feel that their mental health is either somewhat worse or much worse. Sheila relayed that the SCIO Board of Directors has asked that we develop a plan to ensure that our community members have access to much needed mental health supports, including those on our website here as well as the Government of Canada funded ‘Wellness Together’ program.

Sheila moved on to discuss the changes to VIP4SCI; as of March 31, 2021, VIP4SCI as a platform will be discontinued. She went on to highlight the reimaging of our new VIP4SCI, which incorporates the feedback we received from our community to include the need of being able to connect with primary care providers. 

Sheila also detailed SCIOs partnership with Parkwood in London to offer Internet Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (iCBT), introducing Dr. James Milligan from the Centre for Family Medicine, who spoke about his role at the Mobility Clinic and the ways in which community members can access primary care – what options do physicians offer? What works best for you? – and the move to virtual primary care and physician billing in response to the pandemic. This was followed by an open peer discussion where attendees were encouraged to share their voice and ask any questions they may have. 

Next, Peter Athanaspoulos, Director, Public Policy, spoke about the difficulty of accessing affordable internet for many who are receiving ODSP and that moving forward there is information that will allow for those on ODSP to receive internet as a discretionary benefit. To learn more please click here. Through a new partnership with Rogers and their ‘Connected for Success’ campaign, our community is also able to receive internet at a reduced rate, starting at $9.99 a month. 

Peter then shared feedback he received from community members, many of whom noted that registering for a COVID-19 vaccine is not an easy task. We have written the Ministry of Health, the regional health units, positioned debate with the opposition government NDP at Queens Park, and are continuously building partnerships to clear a pathway for phase two vaccinations for people with disabilities in Ontario. SCIOs recommendations are simple. The Ontario government treat people with disabilities as a whole sector, and work with regional health units to have a stream within vaccination sites for people with disabilities for triaging. 

To learn more please click here.

Peter also shared some recommendations around how our community can get registered for a vaccine, which include:

  • Calling your Family Doctor and seek advice
  • Contact your home care provider and inquire if they have a plan for their clients
  • If you are receiving outpatient services in any hospital, call them and inquire
  • Call your regional health unit and seek their support
  • Use the Ontario Vaccination Portal and navigate through registration to a vaccine request 

Following Peter, Oda Al-Anizi, Information & Resource Specialist, took us on a tour of with the online learning platform as well as Cortree TV. Oda highlighted the many courses that are offered for free on CoreTree as well as through CoreTree TV and their YouTube channel. Oda went on to discuss the importance of being able to connect and learn from one another. To learn more please visit the CoreTree website here, or to register for one of our up-coming Peer Connections please click

The town hall wrapped up with a presentation on key take-aways by Alex McKinnon, SCIO Board Treasurer. Alex mentioned that the comments from this town hall will be taken back to the next board meeting.

Thank you to everyone who joined us for this Peer Town Hall. We value your contributions and encourage you to continue to make your voice heard. For the recording of the meeting, please see below.



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