SCI Community Magazine
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Fall 2019

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Opening Notes: 2018-19 – The end of an era and a new beginning

Stuart Howe
Dr. Stuart Howe | CEO, Spinal Cord Injury Ontario

There is absolutely no doubt of the great value skilled attendants bring to our community. You only need witness the devastating impact of the current province-wide shortage of PSWs to confirm the critical role they play in the day-to-day lives of people living with disabilities.

So why, after 30 years of operating an Outreach Attendant Services Program in Toronto, would SCIO want to end this program? In one word, sustainability – for the careers of our staff attendants, continued excellence in client service and the future of our charity. Here’s the story:

Decision to divest

After years of investigation and consideration, the SCIO Board of Directors decided to pursue divesting the Outreach Attendant Services (AS) Program from SCIO’s suite of provincial programs and services, and transferring the service to March of Dimes of Canada as of March 31, 2020.

In Spring 2019, the Conservative government announced the elimination of the LHIN system and the creation of Ontario Health and 30-50 regional Ontario Health Teams (OHTs). This government structure change made it clear we would have to alter our service delivery model to fit that presented by the Ministry of Health & Long-Term Care.

These realities would most certainly have a negative impact on the continued operation of SCIO’s AS program, so being proactive to strengthen opportunities for both our staff and clients was the best possible decision.

March of Dimes

March of Dimes Canada (MODC), as an AS provider in many regions across the province, has a greater ability than SCIO to support AS staff and clients, so we are proud to partner with this large national charity. MODC is pleased to round out their employee roster with our staff.

In addition to this arrangement, MODC will be using SCIO to augment their attendant training across the province to best support people with SCI.

Timing

It is business-as-usual for the SCIO Attendant Services and our AS clients from today until March 31, 2020, at which time MODC will employ attendants and arrange for SCIO AS clients to be served directly through them.

Though such a big change is challenging in many ways, we are committed to supporting our clients and staff throughout this transition, and are hopeful we will emerge as a stronger charity.

After divesting the AS program, we will continue to focus on working directly with our clients and wider community across the province through our Regional Services Co-ordinators, our Peer Support Co-ordinators, information sharing, advocacy initiatives, events and our network of partners in the health care, business and government sectors.

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75 and Beyond

We will be celebrating our 75th anniversary throughout the year 2020. That’s a lot of years of support, service and advocacy for and with people with spinal cord injury in this province and there are so many stories to share. Stay tuned for a calendar of events that will honour those who’ve come before and all that SCIO and our community can look forward to in the future.

In the Community

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Chris Channon (centre) and the Global News team, Susan Hay and Phil Pang.

It’s been a busy fall full of opportunities to connect with our community members, tell our story and pursue new partnerships. In London, Sudbury and Sault Ste. Marie, we hosted events to honour those regions’ volunteers, partners, donors and staff (see page 11), who drive the work we do.

SCIO Peer Support Volunteer Chris Channon, who you may recall from the cover article in our spring issue of Community has made news lately. He has generously shared his incredible story and appreciation of the ways SCIO has helped him on his recovery journey for Global News, the Toronto Sun and Toronto Life magazine. As well, Chris spearheaded a fundraising campaign to support his 5K walk in the recent Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon. Thanks to Chris and all who rolled, walked or ran on behalf of SCIO. Every dollar does count.

I’ll be meeting across the province with government representatives, along with our Director of Advocacy Peter Athanasopoulos, to pursue new partnerships with Ontario Health Teams and the Ministry responsible for employment programs. Our wrap-around services are critical to the well-being of those with SCI and these partnerships will be a new beginning of standardized access to service and support.

We have an extraordinary community and I’m proud to be a part of it. As always, I invite you to enjoy the articles in this issue of Community, and to connect with me at any time to discuss our work.

Thanks to you all.

Dr. Stuart Howe | Fall 2019

CEO, Spinal Cord Injury Ontario

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