Mo Korchinski and Shirley Paulsen have a wealth of first-hand experience navigating B.C.'s mental health and substance use system.
As members of the Lived Experience Advisors and Partners (LEAP) team, embedded in the Provincial Mental Health and Substance Use Network, Mo and Shirley are passionate about bringing that experience to the table to improve outcomes for people with mental health and substance use.
The LEAP Team is a group of individuals with diverse, personal lived and living experience (PWLLE) of mental health and substance use, including as family members, united around a collective goal – to drive change and improvements in B.C.'s mental health and substance use system of care.
In support of this goal, the LEAP Team offer their expertise and insights to identify ways to address longstanding gaps in the system, and better support marginalized people whose needs are not being met by existing services. The team is co-led by Anita David, lived experience strategic advisor, and Krista English, senior network lead.
While Mo and Shirley have been involved with other groups that engage PWLLE, LEAP has always felt different.
"When I met the LEAP team, it was clear we all understood the deficiencies and knew where there's room for improvement," says Shirley.
Mo agrees. "From day one, LEAP gave me a lot of hope that our voices were going to be heard. It didn't feel like I was there to tick a box."
Now, after forming in late 2021, the LEAP team – which, in addition to Mo and Shirley, includes Mark Brady, Chris Lamoureux, and Pam Young – is releasing its inaugural LEAP Report.
BE BOLD. MAKE CHANGES. Perspectives from LEAP on unmet needs of individuals with complex mental health and substance use issues
The report summarizes insights and perspectives raised by the LEAP team through consultations and interviews held over a 12-month period with the Network. As Shirley says, "It really tells a story about what's happening out there."
BE BOLD. MAKE CHANGES. covers a range of areas, from qualities care providers need to deliver person-centred care, to the importance of standards and accountabilities related to ensuring service quality and safety, and the fundamental need to consider and support an individual's social determinants of health.
The report shines light on cracks in the system, and provides clear considerations to guide policies, programs and supports that serve people with complex mental health and substance use needs. And importantly, as Mo emphasizes, its message is accessible for a range of people.
"This is a user-friendly report that really highlights what we're working towards," she says. "My hope is that it provides some perspective to policy makers. These are important areas identified by people who receive these services, and they want to see some improvement."
With the release of BE BOLD. MAKE CHANGES., Mo, Shirley, and the rest of the LEAP team now feel empowered in the knowledge that their voice is at the table. And as they reflect on this milestone, which symbolizes not only a year of dialogue and engagement, but also their personal expertise, passion and stories, they reiterate their commitment to action real change for people accessing MHSU services.
"LEAP has only just started," concludes Shirley. "We've barely scratched the surface. I want this to continue to be something that grows, and I believe we can be leaders in the progress that needs to be made."
Read BE BOLD. MAKE CHANGES. Perspectives from LEAP on unmet needs of individuals with complex mental health and substance use issues.
The Network will continue to engage LEAP and other PWLLE representing groups who are known to not have their needs met by current services as part of its work to address system-level gaps. Future reports will be developed to share these insights. Learn about the Provincial Mental Health and Substance Use Network.