Faculty of Health Professor Mary Wiktorowicz is a ‘best brain’

Research by York Faculty of Health Professor Mary Wiktorowicz on how government policy can foster a more coordinated mental health-care system was front and centre March 18 at a Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) Best Brains Exchange.

Faculty of Health Professor Mary WiktorowiczThe event, which took place in Halifax, NS, is part of CIHR’s ongoing effort to bring together the best brains of research and decision-making on a government identified, high priority issue.

Right: Faculty of Health Professor Mary Wiktorowicz

Friday’s Best Brains Exchange, titled “Governance Models to Support an Integrated System of Care for Mental Health and Addictions Services”, was developed by CIHR in cooperation with the Nova Scotia government.

Wiktorowicz was approached to be on the panel of experts to the advisory committee on mental health for Nova Scotia’s Department of Health because of her research comparing the modes of governance used in 10 mental health networks in rural versus urban and regionalized versus non-regional contexts, published in the October to December 2010 issue of the International Journal of Integrated Care.

Wiktorowicz’s research found that collaboration is a key factor for effective and safe care, especially since organizations across different jurisdictions make up the health-care system.

“Mental health care goes beyond treatment – it involves a range of supports that help individuals recover and manage their lives, such as housing and income assistance that are run by different organizations in separate jurisdictions,” said Wiktorowicz.

“If collaboration between these organizations is not built into the system, the continuity of care is easily broken. Without the appropriate supports, an individual may eventually experience a mental health crisis and patient safety can become a real risk,” she added.

The advisory committee on mental health was struck following the release of the Hyde Report, which used findings from an investigation into the death of Howard Hyde, a client in Nova Scotia’s mental health system. Hyde died in November 2007, in a jail cell following a series of altercations with police and prison guards. Law enforcement officials had tried and failed to find him access to emergency psychiatric care.

Knowledge exchanged at the Best Brains panel will provide the Nova Scotia Mental Health Strategy Advisory Committee with an overview of the latest evidence, as well as timely advice from experts in the field of mental health and governance in health care. The panel was comprised of researchers, administrators, clinicians and policy-makers. Participation was based on each individual’s expertise and knowledge on critical issues related to access to mental health and addictions services.

“Research shows that even in decentralized systems, policy and organizational processes can foster more collaboration and lead to better care,” said Wiktorowicz. “For example, appointing a director of mental health for a region whose mandate is to bring together representatives from diverse organizations can lead to information sharing and innovations supported by inter-organizational coordination within the system.”

The Best Brains Exchange is part of a CIHR provincial engagement strategy, called Evidence on Tap, to make high-quality evidence that addresses health system priorities accessible to decision makers.

More about Mary Wiktorowicz

Wiktorowicz adopts a comparative lens to study models of health system governance, focusing on mental health policy and pharmaceutical policy. Her comparative policy research also analyses international  pharmaceutical regulatory policy and develops frameworks to enhance our understanding of them. Her most recent research compares international pharmaco-surveillance strategies and the decision frameworks that guide them.

By Jenny Pitt-Clark, YFile editor