Skip to Content

Policy & Advocacy

hands together

Policy & Advocacy Resources


Drift from Peer Support Values and Standards: A Position Statement and Call for Action

Download PDF


RICHMOND HILL (March 24, 2023) - Today PeerWorks, Ontario’s voice for lived experience and the association representing over fifty community-based peer and family support organizations applauds the Ontario government’s commitment to increase funding for community-based mental health organizations. In the budget document presented on March 23rd, the Ford government committed to increasing the budget for mental health services by $425 million per year for the next three years.  


“Peer support organizations warmly receive and help thousands of Ontarians every year who have either fallen through the cracks of the healthcare system; cannot wait for a referral or for the multiple weeks to see a clinician; or are simply seeking social inclusion and community while maintaining their wellness for the long-term,” said Allyson Theodorou, Executive Director. “We are hopeful that the money promised in this budget will help peer support organizaitons build on the work they are doing on the front lines in communities across the province.”  


Yesterday’s budget announcement builds on the commitments made in the government’s “Roadmap to Wellness” plan. The increase in funding is earmarked for mental health and addictions services that “support mental health programs that are community-led and delivered” and to “make a broad range of addictions services available across Ontario that are easy to access and there when needed.”   


“This government has put tremendous resources behind mental health services, and we feel this is a perfect time for peer support organizations to receive the recognition and support they deserve,” said Theodorou. “Peer support organizations have been providing an invaluable service for those living with mental health and addiction issues since 1992 but have largely been overlooked in the current system. I look forward to working with the government on improving access to care in the current system in the coming months.”  


Consumer Survivor Initiatives (CSIs) are a type of peer support organization with an independent board of directors and staffed by people with lived experience. These organizations receive “drop-in” visitors and work in cooperation with Community Mental Health Associations (CMHAs), hospitals, Family Health Teams and other institutions to alleviate wait times and backlogs in the sector. In addition, CSIs offer a “barrier-free” and anonymous option for people wishing to access mental health services for anyone wishing to seek support.  


About PeerWorks  

PeerWorks has been the voice of lived experience and community-based peer and family support for over 30 years. The association receives funding through a Transfer Payment Agreement (TPA) with Ontario Health, which is used to support over 50 local Consumer-Survivor Initiatives (CSIs), Peer Support Organizations (PSOs), and other programs across Ontario by highlighting the achievements and challenges of the many individuals who use these resources. The programs and services are found in independent community organizations, Community Mental Health Agencies, Hospitals, Universities and Colleges, Police Departments, First Responders, and Legal Associations. PeerWorks represents the interests of people with lived experience at provincial mental health and addiction policy planning and strategy implementation tables.   


PeerWorks’ mission is to acquire, understand, and amplify the unique and distinct voice of Consumer-Survivor organizations across Ontario. The experiential expertise of our peers will shape the mental health system to achieve a valued, recovery-oriented, community-based approach to support.   


Contact: Allyson Theodorou, Operations Director, PeerWorks | | 416-484-8785 ext. 2


Message from PeerWorks' Executive Director

Download PDF

Summary of Party Platforms - Ontario Votes 2022

Download PDF

Election Analysis - June 6th - Ontario Votes 2022

Download PDF

PeerWorks Congratulatory Letter - The Hon Michael Tibollo

Download PDF

PeerWorks Congratulatory Letter - The Hon. Sylvia Jones

Download PDF

Ontario Govt Appoints Cabinet & PAs

Download PDF


Pre-budget Submission: support for ontario “front-line” peer and family support organizations and consumer/survivor initiatives (CSIS)

Ontario Budget 2022

Through this pre-budget submission, PeerWorks hopes to better educate government on the value that the over 50 community-based peer and family support organizations in Ontario have in their communities, the unique way in which they interact with other stakeholders in our mental health and addictions system, and outline how they would leverage funding to standardize care across the province and provide enhanced peer support services to Ontarians in need.

To learn more about our strategic "three asks", read our formal submission:

Download PDF

TORONTO (August 9, 2022) – Today PeerWorks congratulates the Ford government on reintroducing the Plan to Build Act (Budget Measures), 2022. The bill, when passed, will commit the government to spending an additional $204 million in mental health. PeerWorks signalled optimism that the government’s commitment to mental health and addictions remains central to its mandate, and hopes the bill will pass in the near term. PeerWorks hopes to see a portion of the promised increase in funding for mental health allocated to community-based peer and family support.

“As the only province-wide voice for lived experience and community-based peer and family support organizations, we would like to commend this government on ensuring that the broader mental health and addictions sector has increased resources to address the growing needs of Ontarians,” said Allyson Theodorou, Managing Director. “We trust the new funding will be allocated in a way that takes in to account the value of community-based services like those offered through our network of consumer survivor initiatives (CSIs), and peer support organizations (PSOs).”

PeerWorks has been an advocate for peer support organizations and lived experience for over 30 years in Ontario. As a representative of the community-based segment, the organization promotes collaboration with clinical mental health and addiction services, and leverages its pan-provincial network of CSIs to help address gaps in the system.

“Our members are counting on a sustainable increase in financial and human resources to maintain and grow their effectiveness in communities across the province. We urge the government to use this increased funding to recognize and bolster peer support,” said Theodorou. “We have over 50 CSI and PSO members who are struggling to cope with the steady increase in our community members’ needs, and we look forward to working with government to ensure those additional pressures and the needs of Ontarians are met.”

PeerWorks and its members plan to continue to raise awareness for the community-based peer and family support segment in Ontario, while continuing to educate and inform the Province’s consultation on the Plan to Build Act (Budget Measures), 2022 as it works its way through the legislative process.

Download PDF

TORONTO (April 28, 2022) – Today PeerWorks, an association representing over 50 community-based family and peer support organizations known as Consumer Survivor Initiatives (CSIs), applaud the commitment made in the provincial Budget to increase funding for the mental health and addictions sector by $204M.

“As the only dedicated, province-wide voice for people with lived experience and the province’s network of community-based peer-support organizations, PeerWorks is pleased to support this budget and the additional resources it is making to the mental health and addictions sector. We hope that this will mean more resources for community-based peer and family support organizations, and our hard-working ‘frontline’ staff who are helping thousands of people a year in their respective drop-in centres and other settings,” said Laura Pearson, Executive Director.

CSIs play a unique and complementary role in the provincial approach to mental health service delivery. The drop-in nature of a CSI allows for immediate care to be provided as Ontarians wait for clinical support with a psychiatrist, psychologist or other caregiver. In many cases they provide a preventative resource, diverting would-be clinical patients from the over-burdened hospital sector. In other cases, they help individuals adapt to normal life after being discharged from their hospital. CSIs are also able to help find individuals meaningful employment and have helped launch many social enterprises throughout the province.

“We believe the additional funding made in this year’s budget is needed at a time where many mental health organizations are struggling with an increased workload. We believe the community-based peer and family support segment has been an undervalued component of Ontario’s Mental Health and Addictions infrastructure for a long time, and that there is a place for people with lived experience to help shape the system,” said Pearson. “An increased yearly allocation to CSIs through this investment will greatly increase capacity, while providing the greatest value for money to government.”

Dowload PDF

OCTOBER 29, 2021

PeerWorksand Krasman Centre Highlight the Role that Peer Support Plays in Transitioning People with Lived Experience of Mental Health Challenges to Meaningful Employment

RICHMOND HILL – Today PeerWorks, an association representing over 50 community-based peer and family support organizations across Ontario and a number of social enterprises that have evolved directly from those organizations, recognized National Disability Employment Awareness Month by hosting MPP Daisy Wai, Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Seniors and Accessibility and the Member of Provincial Parliament (MPP) for Richmond Hill at Krasman Centre.

“PeerWorks is pleased to recognize National Disability Employment Awareness Month. Employment plays a huge role in peer support’s core principles of recovery, hope, and individual empowerment. We are proud to represent many community-based organizations that hire directly from the pool of capable and inspiring people they serve. We are also proud of the many social enterprises that have evolved directly out of our local community-based peer support organizations.” said Laura Pearson, Executive Director of PeerWorks. “When people have a job, they feel they are a valued member of society. Peer support provides a hand up, not a handout.”

“The Krasman Centre has been proud to serve the community of Richmond Hill since 1998. The centre was started by a small group of community members with lived experience of mental health challenges who collectively envisioned a ‘soft place to land’ where people were ‘label free.’” said Susan Dobson, Executive Director, Krasman Centre. “Our organization continues to be fully led and run by people with lived experience, offering not only critical mental health services, but opportunities for employment and career advancement.”

“The Krasman Centre is a wonderful asset to the City of Richmond Hill, and a shining example of the importance that peer support plays in transitioning those with mental health issues back into the workforce. I am honoured to recognize the work of PeerWorks, the Krasman Centre and peer support organizations across the province that aren’t only providing a safe environment for those with mental health afflictions, but also a valuable resource for empowerment through employment,” said MPP Daisy Wai.

“It is a pleasure to acknowledge the work of PeerWorks and their members like the Krasman Centre that complement our government’s dedication to helping create a more inclusive society for everyone,” said Hon. Raymond Cho. “We look forward to working with these wonderful organizations as we implement our framework Advancing Accessibility in Ontario and as we collectively work to break down barriers for those seeking empowerment through greater access to employment.”

Download PDF

May 12, 2021

QUEEN’S PARK – MPP Terence Kernaghan (London North Centre) held a virtual press conference Wednesday announcing his new bill to extend Ontario’s Assistive Devices Program (ADP) to include coverage of technological devices used to support mental health care treatments, and any associated data costs. Watch the press conference.

Kernaghan was joined by health researchers Cheryl Forchuk of Lawson Health Research Institute and Laura Pearson, executive director of Ontario Peer Development Initiative, who stressed the benefits of certain devices to people living with mental illness. 

“For thousands of Ontarians living with mental health challenges, technological devices that help people virtually access medical and counselling appointments, monitor physical activity, social contact and sleep data, or automatically dispense medication, can support mental health care and treatment, helping to give people with mental illness a better chance at a full, independent and healthy life,” said Kernaghan. 

“Covering mental health devices through the ADP will remove barriers to access, and empower Ontarians with mental health needs, helping many to end the cycle of crisis and hospitalization.” 

Kernaghan’s bill was inspired by research conducted by London health researchers that showed Ontarians with mental health needs demonstrated positive health outcomes once they had access to devices that support their treatment plan.

Research shows that Ontarians who use assistive devices for their mental health felt more empowered, less isolated, and more integrated in their communities – nearly 80 per cent of participants in a study by Forchuk found assistive devices for mental health improved their overall health and resulted in fewer visits to a social service provider or a hospital emergency department.  

Kernaghan’s Bill 277 will be debated in the legislature and put to a vote on Thursday. To show your support, you can sign MPP Kernaghan's petition.


Laura Pearson, executive director of Ontario Peer Development Initiative:

“Arming individuals with technological devices to support their mental health needs will significantly increase access to much-needed treatments and supports. Through the use of technology, individuals can better manage their own mental health – giving them greater independence and higher levels of community integration. The Ontario Peer Development Initiative applauds MPP Kernaghan for introducing this private member’s bill that would allow for greater engagement in mental health services."  

Cheryl Forchuk, Lawson Health Research Institute

“The pandemic has reaffirmed that there can be no health without mental health. In the 21st century we know new technologies are available to support mental as well as physical health. We need legislation that does not discriminate based on type of disability.”

May 7, 2021

TORONTO - This year’s Mental Health Week marked its 70th Anniversary in Canada, and as the end of this important awareness-raising week fast approaches, PeerWorks wants to congratulate the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) on reaching this milestone and acknowledge the 50-plus peer support and consumer-survivor organizations across Ontario for the services they provide. These local mental health resources are available to anyone seeking alternative and adjunct supports in a safe and accepting community beyond the clinical model.

“Peer Support fills a critical service gap for those that are underserved, on waitlists, struggling with treatment, in crisis, have been discharged, and need a welcoming safe space for immediate relief,” said Laura Pearson, Executive Director of PeerWorks. “It can be the first step toward getting help, yet also an effective prevention strategy when moderating challenging life events. If you need to talk, there is likely a peer-support resource near you that is willing to listen.”

The theme of this year’s Mental Health Week is understanding emotions. Recognizing, labeling, and accepting our feelings are all part of protecting and promoting good mental health for everyone. PeerWorks as a supporter of the annual week-long tradition created by the CMHA has been encouraging people to #GetReal about how you feel with your family, friends, and peers.

“These uncertain and challenging times have been stressful for many Canadians. Over the past year, the number of people who have used our peer-support services has increased significantly,” said Laura. “It is the local grassroots organizations that deliver peer support through lived experience that truly deserve to be celebrated during Mental Health Week, for the value they provide to their communities.”

In 2020, the Ontario government released its Roadmap to Wellness: A Plan to Build Ontario’s Mental Health and Addictions System. The document recognizes the importance of integrating peer support into standards of care within our healthcare system. Peer support has proven to improve treatment plans and personal wellness journeys. Peer support is recognized as an effective form of mental health and addictions treatment by both the Canadian and Ontario governments.

“Organizations like PeerWorks and the many peer support service providers across the province provide a critical, foundational piece to our mental health and addictions infrastructure,” said Hon. Michael Tibollo, Associate Minister for Mental Health and Addictions. “We will continue to work with PeerWorks as we implement the Roadmap to Wellness - our action-oriented plan to build a connected and comprehensive mental health and addictions system where every Ontarian can be fully supported in their journey towards mental wellness.”

PeerWorks encourages Ontarians looking for mental wellness resources to visit PeerWorks website and locate a local peer support organization in their area:

Toronto, July 30th, 2020 – In order to better support the increasing mental health needs of Ontarians during COVID-19 and beyond, six community mental health organizations are pooling their resources to better serve their communities.

Empowering Community Minds (ECM) – a new community mental health partnership – brings together the Institute for Advancements in Mental Health (IAM), Community Family Services of Ontario (CFSO), Ontario Peer Development Initiative, Hope + Me – Mood Disorders Association of Ontario, Fred Victor and recently, the Ontario Brain Injury Association. ECM aims to empower and support communities impacted by mental health challenges across the province. Sparked in response to the pandemic but sustained by a shared passion for people, the collaborative aims to provide a continuum of services to improve the lives of individuals and families impacted by mental health challenges, and those who are facing new distress sparked by COVID-19.

The organizations within ECM saw COVID-19 adding new challenges to the vulnerability of already marginalized populations, who already face negative mental health impacts of social isolation, housing insecurity, digital exclusion and economic instability.

“We have seen a drastic increase in the volume and complexity of concerns our community is facing including stress within families, poverty brought about by the current social crisis, addictions, mental health challenges and more,” says Anna V. Wong, Executive Director of Community Family Services of Ontario.

Through the ECM initiative, the six member organizations are gearing to support increasing needs within the community.

“We needed to work together to amplify our community mental health response. In light of the pandemic, Empowering Community Minds (ECM) was created to pool resources across organizations and unite services to help more people,” says Mary Alberti, CEO, Institute for Advancements in Mental Health. “Through collaboration and sharing of resources, our partnership aims to fill gaps in access and services, creating healthier families and communities for all.”

The collaborative began expanding their services by offering support through online workshops in Mandarin and English for frontline workers in health, social services and mental health. Over this summer, ECM online webinars were delivered to nearly 400 people across Ontario so far, addressing key topics such as:

  • Self-care and Mental Wellness for Frontline Health Care Staff
  • Peer Support for People of Indigenous Heritage
  • Peer Support 101 in Challenging Times
  • Plan for Resilience: A Workshop for Front Line Workers
  • Working with Hard to Reach Clients

ECM webinars were designed to provide skill development to build increased resilience for health care workers serving people in our communities impacted by mental health needs

“COVID-19 has revealed new areas of need in mental health care, social services and worker self-care. By using each of our specialities to facilitate webinars on these topics, we can help close these widening gaps,” says Laura Pearson, Executive Director of the Ontario Peer Development Institute.page2image10010976

ECM’s pooling of resources this summer to deliver support online is an example of how collaboration can lead to unique opportunities and innovative approaches to address age-old challenges. Empowering Community Minds continues to work closely together to examine and address the evolving challenges facing communities during the pandemic, and beyond.

“Harnessing the power of this collaboration will be a source of health resilience within our communities and improve outcomes,” says Ann Marie MacDonald, Executive Director of Hope + Me – Mood Disorders Association of Ontario. “Our collaborative will reflect the foundation of our shared values, our awareness of cultural contexts, and the complexity of concerns within our communities, which will lead to a new exciting pathway of care across Ontario.”

About the Collaborative

Empowering Community Minds (ECM), comprised of the Institute for Advancements in Mental Health, Community Family Services of Ontario, Ontario Peer Development Initiative, Hope + Me – Mood Disorders Association of Ontario, Ontario Brain Injury Association and Fred Victor, brings together community-based organizations in Ontario to empower and support our communities. We aim to provide a continuum of services to improve the lives of individuals and families with varying mental and psychosocial abilities, within the diverse communities of GTA. Sparked by the pandemic but sustained by passion, we unite to serve our communities for their chronic and crisis needs. The collaborative works together to support mental health by offering a wider range of services to communities experiencing increased wellness challenges as a result of the pandemic.

Empowering Community Minds Announcement

Download PDF


Media Contacts:

Mina Zahine /

Promising Practice

Download PDF

PeerWorks' Analysis of the Federal Cannabis Act

Download PDF

A Shared Responsibility: Ontario’s Policy Framework for Child and Youth Mental Health (2006)

Download PDF

Ontario Mental Health and Addictions Strategy: Consumer Partnerships Theme Paper (2012)

Download PDF

Open Minds, Healthy Minds (2011)

Download PDF

Engaging People with Lived Experience for Better Health Outcomes (Cheng & Smith Consumer Partnerships Paper 2012)

Download PDF

On Becoming Best New Friends (Reville 2006)

Download PDF

Development of a Peer Support Strategy for the Southwest LHIN (Virani 2015)

Download PDF