Our Origin Story
The NorthBEAT Collaborative was born in 2012 as a research project, and evolved into a strategic systems collaborative in 2017. The research project explored the barriers youth experience psychosis in Northern Ontario face along their pathway to care. The research findings showed that while some youth experience direct care pathways, many were convoluted; in short, we learned that youth are not getting the care they need, when they need it. An important theme from the interviews was the importance of knowledge about psychosis. Many youth turned to non-specialist services for help and were either led down a longer-than-necessary path to Early Psychosis Intervention (EPI), or were turned away completely. NorthBEAT’s lead, Dr. Chi Cheng, saw an opportunity for NorthBEAT to put knowledge into action quickly and effectively to help improve care pathways for youth.
NorthBEAT proposed the development of a strategic systems collaborative which would help build capacity around psychosis in Northwestern Ontario, and applied for funding from the Ontario Trillium Funding Youth Opportunities Fund (YOF at OTF). In May 2017, Dr. Cheng and the NorthBEAT Collaborative were awarded a four-year YOF at OTF grant. The NorthBEAT Collaborative will use the funding to improve the system of care to detect psychosis symptoms early on, and enable youth living in Northwestern Ontario to access appropriate services. The project is designed to improve connections between sectors, redesign existing resources, and build the capacity of service providers.
Youth with psychosis in Northwestern Ontario do not get the help they need, when they need it. We’re going to change that
NorthBEAT Coordinating Team
CHIACHEN CHENG, MD, FRCP(C), MPH
NORTHBEAT LEAD / PHYSICIAN RESEARCHER
Dr. Chiachen (Chi) Cheng completed her Psychiatry residencies at McMaster University, a clinical fellowship in Early Psychosis Intervention (EPI) at McMaster University, and a Master’s of Public Health at Harvard University. Dr. Cheng’s primary research interests are Early Psychosis Intervention, evidence based practice as it interfaces with paediatric mental health policy, and models of care for vulnerable populations in rural/remote settings. Her research has examined program implementation and development, fidelity to EPI standards, evaluation of EPI training for healthcare workers, delivery of EPI services in rural and remote regions, and pathways to care among vulnerable populations (e.g., youth, Indigenous people). Dr. Cheng was awarded a 3-year New Investigator Research Award from the Sick Kids Foundation and Canadian Institutes of Health Research for The NorthBEAT Project in 2012. In 2017, Dr. Cheng and the NorthBEAT team received a 4-year Ontario Trillium Foundation Youth Opportunities Fund grant to support the NorthBEAT Collaborative. This diverse collaborative will improve coordination of care, build capacity to detect psychosis symptoms early, and enhance access to appropriate services for youth with psychosis who live in Northwestern Ontario.
STEPHANIE SCHURR, OTD, OT REG (ONT)
NORTHBEAT RESEARCH COORDINATOR
Stephanie joined NorthBEAT in 2020 as the Research Coordinator. Stephanie obtained her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology at the University of Waterloo in 2006 and her Master’s in Occupational Therapy at McMaster University in 2008. In 2008 she moved to Thunder Bay and since then has worked as an Occupational Therapist with St. Joseph’s Care Group in the Outpatient Neurology and Mental Health Outpatient Programs. She is especially interested in the intersection of mental health and neurological conditions. In 2019, Stephanie earned a Clinical Doctorate in Occupational Therapy from Salus University. Her doctoral research focused on the need for enhanced services for clients with concussion in Northwestern Ontario. She is looking forward to the opportunity to put her research and knowledge translation skills to work with the NorthBEAT Collaborative.
TIXIANA FERRARI ROVIRA, BA
NORTHBEAT RESEARCH INTERN
Tixiana joined NorthBEAT in 2020 as Research Intern for the NorthBEAT Collaborative. Tixiana joins our team with experience supporting marginalized youth—including newcomer youth and youth with special needs—and is looking forward to growing her knowledge of youth mental health. Born in Venezuela, Tixiana spent her adolescence in Southern Ontario before moving to Thunder Bay. With a BA in Sociology from Brock University, she is particularly interested in gaining hands-on experience in research and evaluation. Tixiana is excited to join the NorthBEAT team and use her research and youth engagement skills to help improve access to mental health services for youth in Northwestern Ontario.
SIMONE SMITH, MRT(T), BSC
NORTHBEAT STUDENT RESEARCHER
Simone joined NorthBEAT in the summer of 2020 as a Youth Researcher. While in her fourth year of her undergraduate degree in Radiation Therapy, Simone relocated to Thunder Bay for ten months to complete her clinical placement. As a student radiation therapist, she worked with people from the entire region of Northwestern Ontario, provided cancer treatment, and conducted research at the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre. Through these experiences, she has developed interest in learning more about the disparities in health care that people face while living in rural/remote communities and how these barriers can be overcome. Now starting her Masters of Public Health at McMaster University, Simone is hoping to pursue a career that will address the health inequities faced by rural/remote populations through advocacy, policy implementation, and effective health promotion.