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Getting Real. Windsor’s mental health and addictions crisis and what we are doing about it

Dec 11, 2018 | Mental Health, Community and Partnerships

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Each month when the times comes around to write this blog, it is always an interesting and exciting experience for me. I get to talk to you all about the things that are happening here at our organization, share with you lessons in leadership and life that I have experienced over my career, or introduce some colleagues and friends in the form of guest blogs. Writing to you each month is a key part of my efforts to ensure that I’m exploring all the different ways to let you all know what’s happening.

For December’s blog, I would not be fulfilling my responsibility as President and CEO of Hôtel-Dieu Grace Healthcare (HDGH), nor being an accountable member of our community if I didn’t continue the very public conversation our community has been having about the deaths experienced in Windsor on the weekend of November 10th due to drug related overdoses.

As a leader in the provision of specialized hospital and community based mental health and addiction services, HDGH does indeed have a moral, an ethical, a human and an organizational responsibility to take action in this crisis, especially when action means saving lives.

When we look at mental health and addictions programming the funding situation is clearly contributing to our community crisis. For too long now, our community agencies and partners have been forced to be as creative as possible with our resources (or lack thereof). We have combined, reallocated, redistributed, streamlined, held roundtables, hosted panels, formed and attended working groups and committees, all in response to the chronic underfunding to Windsor-Essex’s mental health and addictions sector. We are at the point now, where simply put, more is needed; more in the way of addiction treatment beds, more counsellors, more outreach, more youth interventions.

Our Government needs to recognize that Ontario continues outside of Toronto and beyond London. Real people, with real families, with a lot of life left to live are having their lives affected – in the worst cases people are dying. Our problem is real. This is not ok. This is not doing the right thing.

So what action will you see from Hôtel-Dieu Grace Healthcare?

Over the next few months you will see a mobile unit in the downtown core. A recent study by the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit found that the greatest amount of opioid related emergency department visits comes are from residents in the downtown core. We also know that in the same location, we have high number of hard-to-reach homeless population. In collaboration with Assisted Living Southwestern Ontario, the Canadian Mental Health Association Windsor-Essex Branch, and Family Services Windsor Essex, you will see a Mobile Mental Health and Addictions Unit focused to this area and this population. While a pilot, this unit will address immediate needs, and provide linkages to already exciting existing support – The TSC, Crisis and Mental Wellness Centre for example. This mobile unit is yet another example of agencies finding efficiencies and creatively repurposing existing limited dollars. At this time, there are is no money to take the mobile unit past the pilot stage and ongoing funding will be necessary.

We have submitted an application to Government for a Youth Hub. The Hub would focus on servicing the mental health needs of transitional aged youth in developing an access point offering a range of services. Again, this is in partnership with community partners who see the same needs and are prepared to take action.

We have advised the Ministry of Health that we are prepared to take action to establish a Youth Addictions Program in alignment with our Regional Children’s Centre. Additionally, we’ve identified enhancements in our Withdrawal Management program. With the temporary repurposing of $15,000 HDGH will add an extra part time community outreach worker who will support an additional 20-30 clients between now and March 31, 2019.

The time to act is now. We can no longer bring groups together to talk about what is happening in Windsor-Essex. Hiring consultants and waiting until February for completed reports is time wasted. We need action, we need investments, and we need them NOW. HDGH is committed to doing our part, but we cannot do it alone. We need our community to come together with one voice and ask for the help we need and deserve. We won’t rest – we can’t rest – until we know that the weekend of November 10th, 2018 was the wake up call this community and this government needed to chart a different path forward.

Why we should all care about Organizational Strategic Planning

Jun 19, 2018 | Leadership, Community and Partnerships

HDGH Strategic Plan

Strategic planning – the words for many elicit a subtle eye roll followed by a quick run for the hills. Yes, in most cases, it can be corporate jargon or “consultant speak,” but more than this it is a VERY important process that guides how we work, what we stand for and where we are going. An organization’s strategic plan should really be a key document that we all pay attention to in our varying places of employment. After all, it is a roadmap for an organization’s future.


For Hôtel-Dieu Grace Healthcare (HDGH) our plan is a way of communicating what the future has in store, where we are going and more importantly, how we will get there. Moreover, it is also a way of reminding each other that ALL of our work is important and reinforces how each and every one of us at HDGH contributes to our organization’s mission and vision.


In the spring of last year, it was recommended that HDGH refresh our strategic plan. A refresh didn’t mean a change in our drivers, our mission or our vision. It also didn’t mean completely overhauling what currently existed but rather refining it so that ALL of our staff felt ownership and saw themselves in where our organization was headed. Soon after that decision to refresh was made, the work began in engaging everyone from clinical and non-clinical staff, community partners, board members, to leadership. If you had input about what needed to be done at HDGH, we asked you to share it - and more than 262 people did.


After organizing, coding and finally analyzing this feedback, I am excited to announce that our refreshed, simpler, relevant and timely HDGH strategic plan is now live. This living, breathing document is one that I can honestly say combines the voices of our people, our patients and their families, our volunteers, our physicians, our community partners, and members in our community who all had a voice in creating this plan. All of these voices and more will be part of guiding us as we continue our work in achieving our vision as trusted leaders transforming healthcare and cultivating a healthier community.


So what does this plan really say? It says:


We are committed to OUR PATIENTS through Service Excellence.

  • From childhood throughout the lifespan, we will provide the highest quality of care and connect our patients to the help they need.


We are committed to OUR PEOPLE and being the best place to work.

  • From recruitment through retirement, we will establish HDGH as the best place to work. Our people are our greatest asset.

We are committed to OUR IDENTITY and being a centre of excellence.

  • We will establish HDGH as a Centre of Excellence in Mental Health and Addictions and Rehabilitative Care.


I invite you to visit and next time you hear the words “strategic plan” said around your place of employment the words will instead prompt some excitement on how YOU can be part of its growth and success. 

Getting Down to Earth: Caring for our patients AND our planet

Apr 4, 2018 | Leadership, Research and Innovation, Community and Partnerships

Getting Down to Earth: Caring for our patients AND our planet

Going Green. These two words have been part of our popular culture for more than ten years. From “green” celebrities and clean makeup, to political activism and green consumerism, the words AND actions that correspond with “Going Green” have moved from a catchy alliteration to a way of life for many.

In honour of April being Earth Month and the 22nd being Earth Day, I think it’s important to share with you some of our “green” commitments here at Hôtel-Dieu Grace Healthcare and how our vision of cultivating a healthier community extends beyond the human mental, physical and spiritual well-being, but also into the air we breathe, the energy we use and to the planet we all call home.

From the inside out….

HDGH leadership has recognized the need to become more environmentally sustainable and responsible as an organization and also as a good neighbour to our West-Windsor community. As a result, our Environmental Services (ES) department has developed and championed the HDGH Green Initiative Program. This program consists of several phases and requires everyone – yep everyone - at HDGH to participate. The most integral phase of the program (Phase 1) focuses on increasing our waste diversion rate by reducing the amount of waste going to landfill. How will we do this? For starters, we have significantly improved our recycling program. The teams have also been more conscious on purchasing ecofriendly alternatives to current materials used throughout our hospital.

Theming 2018’s Earth Month is plastic pollution. Plastic, in all its varying forms, does so much harm to our environment from poisoning and injuring marine life, to clogging our waste streams and landfills. HDGH will do our part in minimizing plastic pollution by installing four new water filtration systems around our hospital to eliminate the use of plastic water bottles. It is our hope to encourage our staff, patients and guests to drink more water while helping our planet. Each time the system is used, it lets us know how many plastic water bottles we have eliminated from entering our waste systems. Pretty cool!

Last month, we held the kickoff meeting with our Energy Services Company, Honeywell, who will begin looking at our hospital to develop, design and build projects that renew our buildings and funding the costs through energy savings. These projects will look at everything, from how we heat and cool our patient rooms, lighting upgrades, potential renewable energy sources, and water system audits, to ultimately reduce our carbon footprint.


The Healing Power of Nature….

Our green commitments do not end there. In October of last year, HDGH along with partners Transition to Betterness (T2B), officially broke ground for the Dr. Lisa Ventrella-Lucente Memorial Garden and Greenhouse Project. The gardens will be a retreat for patients, families and staff to enjoy time outdoors and experience a sense of connection to our natural surroundings. They will also provide an opportunity for HDGH Mental Health and Rehabilitation patients to explore the therapeutic value of gardening. Some of my very best memories from my youth are times spent with my late father in the gardens … growing tomatoes and cucumbers and seeing my grandmother's irises come up in the spring.

Phase 2 of the project will include a greenhouse for the production of fresh herbs and vegetables to be used in the T2B family kitchen on our 20 bed palliative unit. 


Proud new members of the Canadian Coalition of Green Healthcare…

As leaders in the healthcare community, HDGH often partners with other organizations to further develop and promote best practices in a variety of capacities. As such, HDGH is now a member of the Canadian Coalition for Green Healthcare (CCGH) – a community of hospitals leading the way in ecofriendly and environmentally sustainable best practices. As a new member to the coalition, HDGH has submitted its first Green Hospital Scorecard for grading by the CCGH. This grade will provide HDGH with a baseline to measure all future progress, and can also be used to compare HDGH to other hospitals that are leaders in environmental sustainability initiatives.

Our movement towards becoming a more environmentally friendly organization isn’t just a good business decision; it is the right thing to do. Our vision of cultivating a healthier community doesn’t stop in delivering quality care for our patients, but also caring for our planet. I am looking forward to reporting out our progress to you on a regular basis and hearing your ideas and suggestions on how we can further our eco-initiatives!

Pre-Budget Consultation with Yvan Baker, Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Finance

Jan 25, 2018 | Mental Health, Leadership, Community and Partnerships

Remarks presented by President and CEO, Janice Kaffer

As an organization, we appreciate and acknowledge the government’s recent investments in our community with the commitment to the new acute care hospital.

We are actively working to establish a Centre of Excellence in Rehabilitative Care. We have made some difficult decisions, we have done a lot of hard work to benchmark ourselves against our peers and invest in our clinical resources but more must be done to better address the health needs specific to our local community. As an organization we know our obligation to our patients expands beyond the walls of the hospital. We have been developing programs and services to meet the needs of patients where they need it most – at home – in the community. But to do this well, partnerships and innovative collaborations are key and while the government strategy speaks to the need for inter-sectoral collaboration on the ground, the reality of old funding models and service agreements are creating barriers to true collaboration and system transformation.

From urban hospitals in the biggest cities to community hospitals such as ours, we are all struggling with the disconnect between mandatory regulations, legislation and increasing expectations within our current funding reality. Rising costs are continually eroding the base funding of our organization and therefore our stability. Whether it be salary increases mandated through arbitration, the impact of Bill 148 and the costs associated with new mandatory regulations, these rising costs are having a profound impact on our bottom line. While we support new legislative standards for pharmacy oversight as evidence informed practice is the cornerstone, applying these standards come at significant costs to hospitals who are already struggling to keep up. In addition, technology demands are coming at a high cost. The need to move to electronic health records and a new Health Information System which will improve access, safety and the patient experience are adding material expenses to an already stretched budget.

Workplace Violence and Prevention is a top priority for HDGH. We are proud of the work that we have done to support a workplace free of violence and are representing the efforts of our organization as a member of the provincial workplace violence committee. We have committed a major dollar investment both in capital and in enhancing training and support to our people to provide a safe environment for our staff, patients and visitors. While we know this is the right thing to do it does put further financial pressures on our hospital.

We have made significant progress in the establishment of a recognized Centre of Excellence and a more integrated Mental Health & Addictions system. As the Windsor-Essex Hospital leader in Mental Health and Addictions, together with our partners, CMHA WE Branch, we are breaking down silos that have historically been a barrier to true system transformation. Even without new funding, HDGH is ready to work to create a stronger, more seamless mental health system but we are at a tipping point, collaboration and innovation alone cannot create the system our community needs.

We have the expertise, and the infrastructure to significantly change the face of mental health and addictions. With the movement of 60 acute care beds to Hôtel-Dieu Grace Healthcare, the creation of urgent assessment for mental health and addictions and added resources for children and youth who are waiting for services, we know we can create a healthy, vibrant community but operating and base investment is required to make this vision a reality.

In closing I would like to leave you with three key messages:

First … Like my colleagues across the province I am concerned about the sustainability of HDGH without significant new investment to the base. Second HDGH is ready, willing and able to take new investments and substantively improve care in rehabilitative programming and Mental Health and Addictions services. And third and finally we need government to connect the dots between regulatory, legislative and practice changes and the impact to hospitals.

Thank you for the opportunity to speak with you today.

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