The Ontario Spinal Cord Injury Solutions Alliance (“the Alliance”) is a collaborative network established in 2006 by Spinal Cord Injury Ontario (SCIO) and the Ontario Neurotrauma Foundation. Alliance members include more than 70 organizations and 250 members including people living with SCI, researchers, policy makers, service providers and others dedicated to addressing and resolving systemic barriers that impact the quality of life of Ontarians living with SCI.
Discussion with Peter Athanasopolous, Executive Director of the Alliance
The purpose for developing the Ontario SCI Alliance was to ensure the right people were at the table to address the complexities of system changes in Ontario. Often when our community works together, we gain many perspectives from people with SCI and service providers.
However, what makes the Alliance unique is the inclusion of researchers and policy makers working collaboratively with people living with SCI on common goals. This framework offers greater opportunity for research to be put into practice and for policy makers to be more informed of the day-to-day challenges that people living with SCI face and raise awareness of policy reforms that reflect the day-to-day challenges.
The Alliance celebrated its 10th anniversary last year. Over the course of the decade this network has had tremendous impact.
The Alliance has had strides in improving respiratory supports, increasing annualized resources for attendant services, has organized a primary care network, addressed distance and transportation gaps in the health care system, and supported an implementation science approach across the province. To name a few.
The partnership with ONF in particular has ensured this is a co-ordinated effort and that we have an agreed-upon process that ensures all voices are heard across the SCI sectors and mechanisms to amplify our community’s voice when necessary. The Alliance also works closely with SCIO’s public policy program where we have peer activists engaged with MPPs in 74 of 144 Ontario ridings.
Collectively by having the right people at the table discussing issues and a system where we can reach the majority of MPPs across the province to discuss these issues makes the Alliance a very powerful voice.
Specifically, Alliance successes include:
- Securing $30-million new dollars for in-home attendant services. Although this was just a start to what is needed.
- There are evidence-informed resources, developed using the ONF research networks, to help in the prevention of pressure sores as well as funding to get people with severe pressure sores living at home with access to surgery.
- Through the ONF investment in the Kitchener-Waterloo Mobility Clinic was developed and supported by the Alliance is ready to be replicated across the province in a variety of different forms. We want every family practitioner to have access to the expertise and information they need to feel comfortable in working with SCI patients.
- The Alliance worked with the Financial Services Commission of Ontario to change the definition of catastrophic impairment under the automobile act specific to spinal cord injury.
- The Alliance worked with the Assistive Devices program to reduce the cost of wheelchairs sold in Ontario by 20 per cent.
- SCI Ontario and the Alliance worked with Toronto City Council and Uber Canada to develop the first wheelchair accessible Uber ride sharing system that today is recognized as the best Uber wheelchair accessible service in the world.
The Spinal Cord Injury Ontario and Ontario Neurotrauma Foundation
Ontario Neurotrauma Foundation is a catalyst for change and the relationship between ONF and SCIO is co-dependent. This reliance underlies the work and strength that two organizations have been able to achieve through the Alliance. ONF has the relationships in research globally to develop the best practises and SCIO works with various community stakeholder groups and individuals. Through our organizations’ collective networks the Alliance has a readership of more than 9,000 across Ontario.
This partnership has worked hard to engage people in a very meaningful way. We follow a consistent process which is unique in Canada to bring issues and opportunities forward and
create and encourage meaningful knowledge translation. We have a process that works and provides an example for others and we are happy to share it.