Ontario Shores in Whitby hoping to create a “living lab” to study mental illness


Published August 24, 2021 at 10:26 am

Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Sciences in Whitby wants to create Canada’s first-ever Mental Health Innovation Incubator and has the backing of all eight municipalities in Durham Region for the project.

This “living lab” would connect clinical experts with private sector entrepreneurs to co-design, co-develop and scientifically evaluate new technologies in the clinical setting. It would focus on the co-development, acceleration, and adoption of mental health-related innovations by:

  • Improving and optimizing the quality and accessibility of mental health patient care and patient outcomes.
  • Creating operational efficiencies for health-care providers, hospitals and health systems.
  • Creating a scalable innovation model to drive broad-based changes in mental health care.
  • Creating opportunities for direct engagement in innovation.
  • Establishing new research platforms that advance care.
  • Supporting the development of new health technologies and innovations and broader economic development.
  • Creating jobs that are led by emerging health technology companies.
  • Providing physical laboratory space in the inpatient mental health setting for entrepreneurs to work alongside mental health clinicians and scientists to co-create innovative solutions for commercialization and business growth.

“This would be a first of its kind in Canada. We’re extremely excited to be investing in this business plan because, if successful, the Mental Health Innovation Incubator would establish Ontario Shores and the Region of Durham as national and even international leaders in mental health innovation,” said Durham Chair John Henry.

“Through the creation of a living lab, Ontario Shores will be able to combine research and data-driven approaches to provide exceptional, life-saving services to residents living with complex and serious mental illness.”

Initial funding, which will be used to develop a business case for the project, will be provided by the Region of Durham’s Strategic Initiatives Division and Economic Development and Tourism Division, as well as the Durham Economic Development Partnership (DEDP), which is made up of the economic development departments of all eight Durham municipalities.

Applying for federal funding and creating business partnerships would follow.

“The Living Lab is a shining example of how Ontario Shores and partners can come together to advance mental health care with a commitment to quality and best outcomes,” said Sanaz Riahi, Vice-President, Practice, Academics and Chief Nursing Executive at Ontario Shores. “The pandemic has exacerbated the challenges faced by people living with mental illness and amplified the need for innovation towards evidence-based mental health care. We will continue to collaborate and advance mental health and addictions care now and into the future.”

Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Sciences is a public teaching hospital in Whitby that provides specialized assessment and treatment services to individuals living with complex and serious mental illness

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