Psychology prof co-lead in $1.8 million government funded program

York University psychology Professor Jonathan Weiss is one of the co-leads in a research program that was recently awarded $1.8 million over three years from the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care’s Health System Research Fund.

The program, Health Care Access Research in Developmental Disabilities (H-CARDD), aims to enhance the overall health and wellbeing of individuals with developmental disabilities through improved health-care policy and services.

H-CARDD is directed by Yona Lunsky from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, the Institute for Clinical JonathanWeissSmallerImageEvaluative Sciences and the University of Toronto. Weiss, the Chair in Autism Spectrum Disorders Treatment and Care Research in York’s Faculty of Health, is a member of the program’s core team, which includes scientists, clinicians and policymakers from across Ontario.

Jonathan Weiss

Individuals with developmental disabilities are one of the most vulnerable and marginalized populations when it comes to accessing healthcare. The goal of H-CARDD is to reduce disparities in health outcomes of Ontarians with developmental disabilities.

Four vulnerable subgroups will be examined over the next three years. The four subgroups are as follows:

  • Aging Adults with co-leads Lynn Martin of Lakehead University and Hélène Ouellette-Kuntz of Queen’s University
  • Women with co-leads Virginie Cobigo of the University of Ottawa and Simone Vigod of Women’s College Hospital.
  • Youth Transitioning to Adult Services with Weiss and Barry Isaacs of Surrey Place Centre
  • Individuals with “Dual Diagnosis” with Rob Balogh of the University of Ontario Institute of Technology and Elizabeth Lin of the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.

Researchers already know that youth with developmental disabilities visit emergency rooms more often than others and have higher rates of psychiatric hospitalization than youth without disabilities. What is needed is more research at the individual and system level on the factors that lead to these high rates and that is what Weiss and Isaacs will be doing.

Young people with developmental disabilities have difficulty in transitioning into adult health care services. For those who need mental health services, it is even more difficult especially with an already difficult to navigate health-care system. That can lead to a worsening of issues.

“Understanding patterns of service use as adolescents with developmental disabilities transition into adulthood can help us to identify barriers and gaps in the health service system,” says Weiss. “Doing so can lead to improved primary care and addressing problems before they become severe.”

H-CARDD’s program of research will provide new information that profiles vulnerable developmental disability subgroups and will translate research into action by facilitating the uptake of evidence-based practices in primary and emergency care.

H-CARDD’s partners include the Ontario Ministry of Community and Social Services, the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences, Surrey Place Centre, the University of Toronto, the University of Ottawa, Queen’s University, York University, Lakehead University, Sunnybrook Hospital, and Women’s College Hospital.

For more information about the H-CARDD program, contact Julie Klein-Geltink, H-CARDD manager, at