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Community Head Injury Resource Services

Message from the Chair of the Board of Directors

January 2023


Message from the Chair of the Board of Directors: January 2023

As we look back on 2022, we see another year that held challenges, although we take heart in the resilience of CHIRS staff and their achievements made on behalf of the CHIRS organization. The Board appreciates the staff's ongoing leadership and tireless commitment to CHIRS' Mission (of improving the lives of those living with Acquired Brain Injuries) as well as their support to their colleagues. While the influences of the pandemic are different than they once were, minimizing its impact remained a focus for the organization. Tremendous effort has gone into keeping everyone as safe as possible. Notwithstanding the ongoing challenges and fatigue caused by the longevity of the pandemic, by all accounts 2022 was once again a productive year.

While the Aldebrain and St. Georges sites have collectively faced three Public Health declared COVID-19 outbreaks and two visits from the Ministry of Labour, the protocols in place have been effective in minimizing the scale of outbreaks and their impact and elicited compliments from the Public Health investigators. This year also brought significant work requests from The Office of the Auditor General of Ontario, as part of their annual auditing responsibilities, as well as a review by the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board of Ontario. CHIRS also received the final report from the Accreditation Canada Review. These reviews did not indicate a need for improvements; indeed, CHIRS received a rebate from Workplace Safety and Insurance Board due to the excellent findings and an award of Exemplary Standing from Accreditation Canada.

A strength of the CHIRS organization is the amazing staff and their community work. Hedy Chandler, CHIRS Executive Director for the past 35 years, also holds the role of Chair of the Toronto ABI Network. At this year's two-day Conference, she made introductory and closing remarks on both days. The Conference was a great success. Three presentations by CHIRS staff were very well received and brought a great deal of attention to the programs and expertise at CHIRS. We are thrilled to report that the CHIRS Food Security Program presentation was selected Best Rapid Podium Presentation.

We are delighted that Dr. Carolyn Lemsky, the CHIRS Clinical Director, received a Health Care Provider of the Year award. This award is given to the health practitioner who has consistently gone above and beyond the call of duty to assist the Brain Injury Community. Dr. Lemsky is also going International! She was invited to and will present at the 14th World Congress on Brain Injury Symposium in Dublin, Ireland in March 2023.

Under Dr. Lemsky's clinical leadership, CHIRS continues to be seen as a center of excellence in the field of Acquired Brian Injury. The evidence of this is the expansion of clinical oversight and support provided by Dr. Lemsky and her team. New partnerships were formed this year with Brain Injury Services of Simcoe Muskoka, the Peterborough Brain Injury Program, and the Gerstein Centre. We also anticipate the support of the City of Toronto's Safe TO Program (A Community & Safety Well-Being Plan). These partnerships generate revenue for CHIRS which allows for the expansion of programs and services.

Making the most of lighter in-person traffic, much-needed major renovations and refreshes took place at all three CHIRS sites. CHIRS was awarded a $100,000 grant from the Ontario Trillium Fund to update the HVAC system at head office. These grants are immensely helpful. We received the news that CHIRS, in partnership with Reena, will receive funding to provide support and housing to four new individuals. Always thinking of ways to add revenue, CHIRS entered an agreement with Bell Canada to allow a communication tower on the head office roof. 

In terms of CHIRS Board activities, one of the Board's mandates is ensuring that the Board operates effectively within the organization's bylaws. One of these requirements is to undertake an independent external risk audit covering all aspects of the CHIRS organization, including Board effectiveness.  The purpose is to seek recommendations for improvements to enable CHIRS to remain best in class. This audit is complete and a report to the Board is forthcoming.

The Board also values feedback from the CHIRS Client and Family Satisfaction Survey and we are pleased to see continued positive feedback.  The Board would very much like to re-establish the annual in-person discussions with clients and their families to enrich the feedback.  At the point in time when we can all gather safely a forum will be planned. 

There are a few changes within the Board. This past fall Board members Dr. Leanne Tran and Janette Yuen retired from the Board after completing two three-year terms. Dr. Leanne Tran held the role of both Board Vice Chair and Head of the Governance Committee. She has been a great help to both the past Chair, Samantha Chapman, and myself. Janette Yuen held the role of Recording Secretary as well as having contributed to the Compensation Committee. Her skills as a consultant have brought broad knowledge to discussions at Board meetings. Thank you to both for your valuable service.

We welcomed two new Board members. Schiavonea (Nina) Corrado, works for the Toronto Catholic District School Board, coordinating their gifted programs. She has experience working with students of various cognitive and physical disabilities. Nina has personal experience with TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury) through a family member who is supported by CHIRS. It has always been important that the Board has family representation, so we are appreciative Nina has been able to join the Board. Also joining the Board is Erica Teklits. Prior to her retirement Erica was CHIRS lead auditor from BDO, so she certainly knows the financial aspects of CHIRS. Along with her financial skills, Erica has experience in the not-for-profit space; she is Board Chair of Etobicoke Services for Seniors and Chair of the Community Foundation of Mississauga. We track the knowledge, skills, and experience of the Board and Nina and Erika are a great fit.

In closing we share the wonderful news that the CHIRS Adult Day Programs are slowly reopening in-person sessions. On behalf of the Board, it is a great privilege to be part of a leading-edge organization with such dedicated professionals. Looking to the year ahead we have every confidence in CHIRS continued success. 

Jenny McAdam
January 2023

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