The Opioid Epidemic - The Forgotten Public Health Crisis

  • Date: Thursday, October 28, 2021
  • Time: 8:45 am - 9:45 am
  • Style: Panel Discussion

The Opioid Epidemic - The Forgotten Public Health Crisis
Before COVID-19 took hold over the world, Ontario was already experiencing a huge public health crisis as opioid deaths steadily increased. The deaths and increase in toxic drug supply have only been exacerbated through this pandemic but there has been no action by any government to address the crisis.  We are very grateful to have an esteemed panel of speakers talk about the opioid epidemic and what needs to be done to support those who have been forgotten.


  • Katie Heelis – Vice President and Health Practice Lead, Enterprise Canada and Interim CEO, Addiction and Mental Health Ontario (new)


  • Betty-Lou Kristy - Director of Support House’s Centre for Innovation in Peer Support
  • Dr. Naheed Dosani - Founder & Lead Physician, The PEACH (Palliative Education And Care for the Homeless) Program
  • Rob Boyd - Oasis Program Director, Sandy Hill Community Health Centre



Katie Heelis



Katie Heelis – Vice President and Health Practice Lead, Enterprise Canada and  Interim CEO, Addiction and Mental Health Ontario


Katie Heelis is a recognized health care expert, political strategist, and issues manager with a successful track record of running some of the largest health campaigns in Canada.
Katie was previously the Issues Manager and Policy Advisor in the Office of the Minister of Health and Long-Term Care where she worked as the lead on the Ontario Mental Health and Addiction Strategy and the Ontario First Nations Action Plan among other files, including public health.

During her tenure at Queen's Park, she honed her political acuity, becoming a key advisor on health policy, and working on a variety of political campaigns at the municipal, provincial, and national level.

Since joining Enterprise, Katie has led national public affairs, government relations and public relations campaigns for some of Canada’s largest healthcare organizations. Today, she is sought after by many of Canada's leading health executives and organizations to support the development of winning public affairs campaigns. During COVID-19, Katie has helped many health care organizations across the country to navigate this new and challenging landscape and prepare for the future.

Katie is a graduate of the Balsillie School of International Affairs, holding a master’s degree in International Public Policy with a focus on Global Public Health. She is also a dedicated volunteer in the community mental health sector and a Board Member at Margaret's Housing and Community Support Services in Toronto.

Bio Pic Betty-Lou Sept 2018 Use

Betty-Lou Kristy - Director of Support House’s Centre for Innovation in Peer Support


Betty-Lou Kristy is the Director of Support House’s Centre for Innovation in Peer Support.  She is a bereaved mother, in recovery for almost 20 years from alcohol/multi-drug addictions, trauma and mental health issues. Betty-Lou lost Pete, her 25-year-old son with concurrent disorders to an accidental opioid overdose in 2001.  She has additional caregiver experience in supporting close family members with cancer, cardio, lung/COPD, diabetes and asthma. She has spent 15+ years as a provincial system-level, lived experience and family – advisor, educator, and advocate – helping to frame policy, governance, and programming.


Betty-Lou has over 15 years of extensive board governance training and experience.  She has completed 3-6 year terms being a board director for Bereaved Families of Ontario Halton-Peel, Canadian Mental Health Association Halton (CMHA-HRB),  Halton Alcohol Drug and Gambling Assessment Prevention and Treatment Services (ADAPT), Glen Mills Co-operative Housing Corporation, and Addictions & Mental Health Ontario (AMHO).  She also has training & experience with Children's Aid Society, Big Brothers & Sisters, John Howard Society Youth Restorative Justice, V.O.N Hospice Care/Caregiver programs, and completed the Halton Citizen’s Police Academy.


Betty-Lou is the Chair of the Health Minister’s Patient and Family Advisory Council (PFAC). She is the recipient of several awards including the 2009 Centre for Addiction and Mental Health Transforming Lives Award and the 2012/13 Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care Achievement-Commitment Excellence Award in Partner Relations for her work with the Expert Advisory Narcotics.


naheed dosani stands with his hands in his pockets in the middle of a city street

Dr. Naheed Dosani - Founder & Lead Physician, The PEACH (Palliative Education And Care for the Homeless) Program


As a palliative care physician, Dr. Naheed Dosani is passionate about advancing equitable access to health care for people experiencing homelessness. After a transformative experience providing care to a Toronto homeless man, Dr. Dosani was motivated to develop Palliative Education And Care for the Homeless (PEACH). Based at the Inner City Health Associates, the PEACH program delivers community-based hospice palliative care to society’s most vulnerable individuals regardless of their housing status or factors such as poverty or substance use. PEACH brings housing, mental health and healthcare providers together to plan an individual’s care while recognizing, but not judging, a persons’ circumstances. This care model has inspired similar programs in cities across the continent and the development of Journey Home Hospice, Toronto’s first hospice for people experiencing homelessness, which opened in May 2018.

With COVID-19, Dr. Dosani’s leadership efforts include serving as Medical Director for the Region of Peel’s COVID-19 Isolation/Homeless Program. A tireless advocate, Dr. Dosani brings attention to the correlation between health and a wide range of social issues through social media, public speaking and national media. He is also co-founder of Doctors for Defunding Police, Doctors for Justice in Long-Term Care and holds faculty appointments at the University of Toronto and McMaster University. Dr. Dosani's research interests include care models for people experiencing homelessness and access to palliative care among culturally diverse communities.


Dr. Dosani has received many prestigious honours for his trailblazing work. These awards include the Meritorious Service Cross for Humanitarianism from Canada’s Governor General in 2018, a humanitarian award from the Canadian Society of Palliative Care Physicians in May 2019 and the Early Career Leader award from the Canadian Medical Association in 2020.

Rob Boyd

Rob Boyd - Oasis Program Director, Sandy Hill Community Health Centre


Rob has been working in the field of mental health, substance use, substance use disorder and homelessness in Ottawa for over 30 years, including the past 18 years where he has been lead on responding to the overdose toxicity crisis with his team at the Sandy Hill Community Health Centre.  The team has knowledge and experience in primary care, opioid agonist treatment, substance use treatment, case management, supervised consumption, drug checking, safer supply and community development.

Rob is a keen advocate for adopting a public health approach to substance use in Canada.


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