Dr. Cheryl Forchuk, Assistant Director at Lawson Health Research Institute and Distinguished Nursing and Psychiatry Professor at Western University, has been appointed to the Order of Ontario, the province’s highest honour. The Order of Ontario recognizes individuals whose exceptional achievement in their field has left a lasting legacy in the province, Canada and beyond. As one of the 2016 appointees, Dr. Forchuk was recognized for her work in the fields of homelessness, poverty and mental health.
“I am incredibly honoured to receive this recognition. It is particularly exciting because mental illness and homelessness are issues that haven’t always been on the public’s radar. I’ve seen this changing over the last few years, which means there is hope for more progress,” says Dr. Forchuk. “My appointment to the Order of Ontario really underscores this shift and shines a light on the possibility that successful interventions can see wide implementation so the most people possible can be helped.”
“For over two decades, Dr. Forchuk has furthered our understanding of mental health and treatment, effecting change in policy, and improving the lives of some of the most vulnerable people in our society,” says Dr. David Hill, Lawson Scientific Director. “She has established herself as a nationally and internationally respected researcher, and is very well-deserving of this honour.”
One of Dr. Forchuk’s significant research contributions is the development of the pioneering Transitional Discharge Model (TDM), which has dramatically improved outcomes for patients, reducing hospitalization while improving clients’ quality of life. The model ensures that, before discharging a client, hospital staff continue to provide care until the client is connected with a community care provider. It also partners discharged clients with a peer who has successfully integrated into the community after a psychiatric diagnosis.
The TDM has been adopted in many areas of Canada, the U.S. and several European countries – including Scotland, where parliament declared it a “best practice” due to the reduction in readmissions. In 2015, she received $1.4M from the Council of Academic Hospitals of Ontario (CAHO) to extend this model at nine further Ontario hospitals, including shorter stay acute care units. Lengths of stay were reduced by 9.8 days per admission resulting in $33M fewer hospital day costs.
Dr. Forchuk has also examined how issues such as housing and income influence community integration and health. She was the Academic Director of a $1M Community University Research Alliance (CURA), focusing on housing and mental health. She worked with community and hospital partners to prevent discharge to homelessness by having access to the Ontario Works database and a housing database available at the hospitals. This resulted in reducing discharges to homelessness by over 90%. She has worked to develop strategies for specific homeless populations such as homeless youth, and homeless veterans. These strategies were successfully tested in London, Toronto, Calgary and Victoria. Dr. Forchuk received an unprecedented second $1M CURA on community integration and poverty.
As group leader for Mental Health Research with Lawson, Dr. Forchuk is examining how smart technologies can improve mental health services and community integration. The diverse group of over 80 mental health researchers has created a seven-year plan to develop a Smart Mental Health System.
Dr. Forchuk was recently appointed to the Ontario Expert Advisory Panel on Homelessness. She was also awarded the annual “Champion of Mental Health” award, which is sponsored locally through the Canadian Mental Health Association and St. Joseph’s Hospital Foundation. She has received an honorary life membership from the Registered Nurses Association of Ontario and the Canadian Association of Advanced Practice Nurses, and a “Research Pioneer” award from Psychosocial Rehabilitation Canada. Western University has designated her as a Distinguished University Professor and she was inducted into the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences in September 2015.