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Persons with Lived and Living Experience (PWLLE) Advisory Panel

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Meet our Panel Members!

The AMHO PWLLE Advisory Panel is made up of clients, family members, community members, and caregivers with a wide range of lived experiences and perspectives. The creation of this Panel will ensure the voices and expertise of patients, families, and caregivers are at the center AMHO’s efforts to mobilize, advocate for, and serve our members, their communities, and the broader community mental health and addiction sector.

Panel members were recruited through a values-based approach, focused on respect, diversity, and collaboration. The recruitment approach prioritized safety and inclusion, with the aim of ensuring that the Panel reflects the skill sets, diversity, and personal experiences needed to advise AMHO on key organization priorities, policy initiatives, and advocacy efforts.

  • Alice Bellavance

    I have three, adult, adopted children, 3 grandchildren and had almost a 30-year relationship with my husband, Terry (deceased 24 years ago) who lived with a Spinal Cord Injury. I have family life experience with neurotrauma, FASD, mental health and addictions. Last year my eldest daughter died of a drug overdose. She struggled for 30 years with mental health and substance disorder. She had a history of childhood trauma and had at least 5 Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE’s) before she came to live with us at age 4. She left behind one daughter aged 25 who was privately adopted and 2 sons ages 12 and 10, who now live with me.


    They have all been diagnosed with FASD and ADHD. My 12-year-old grandson is currently seeing a therapist for grief and loss, suicidal ideation, and other mental health/emotional struggles. Both my grandsons have been exposed to 8 out of 10 ACE’s. We have been very fortunate to access services quickly.

  • Dan Bolton

    From 15 to 23 I survived life on the streets which I finally escaped through an overdose and a rescue by the Addiction Research Foundation. Many people experiencing homelessness and myself began the Homeless Coalition of ST Thomas (“THC of ST T”) where I have been a frontline peer supporter for the past six years. I achieved 30 years of sobriety in various lengths; I am the proud father of 6 wonderful children; and, last week I graduated from the Fanshawe Paralegal program. I am grateful for the opportunity to work with you.

  • Dean Valentine

    I’m a veteran of The Royal Canadian Navy and my professional competencies were gained through over 25 years of dedicated service to the Canadian Forces logistics branch. I have been employed in a vast spectrum of working environments domestically and internationally, providing human resource management and financial support services.


    I am a member of the Minister of Health’s Patient Family Advisory Council, and actively involved with the development of the Downtown East Toronto Ontario Heath Team as a patient partner and the inaugural chair of its Community Advisory Council. I think it’s important and wish to disclose and identify as a person of the 2SLGBTQ+ community living with HIV/AIDS, PTSD, Substance use disorder and affected by a cognitive impairment. It is my personal journey, both successes and challenges, since being diagnosed in 2008, which has inspired my committed to community building through engagement with initiatives that improve navigation of our healthcare networks. I have participated with varied peer support programming, education and research in mental health and addictions. I consider myself a passionate advocate of holistic mindful approaches to patient centred care.

  • Eileen Starkman

    Driven by my passion for helping people recovery from addiction, I am a Canadian Certified Addiction Counsellor (CCAC) working at an addiction treatment centre. In my role, I have the opportunity to counsel clients in Renascent’s Virtual Intensive Treatment Program, who struggle with alcohol and drug addiction, as well as mental health issues.


    With a sobriety date of January 21, 2006, my lived-experience with addiction, long-term recovery, and membership within a 12-step fellowship, are all strengths which allow me to connect knowledgably and empathically with others. In addition to my personal insight, my experience with mental health challenges extends to my immediate family and friends.


    I bring personal and professional knowledge, enthusiasm, and compassion to my work. I am a strong advocate for fostering awareness, addressing stigma, and challenging preconceptions, all with a solutions-focused approach to the challenges individuals and communities face regarding addiction and mental health. Deeply committed to a life of service, I currently serve as co-chair of Renascent’s Health and Safety Committee, as well as other service commitments in my personal life.

  • Harriet Kakinda

    I am a social work and Community Health Ambassador for Toronto shelter Network and have worked in community and shelter settings helping people experiencing homelessness, substance use and mental health. I believe that social work is a profession that can make a real difference in people’s lives and help make the world a better place

  • Kavithan Sinnathamby

    I am working as a Personal Support Worker, and I make music as my emotional outlet. I come from immigrant parents who came to Canada from Sri Lanka, to flee the civil war. My parents had a lot of traumas and were unable to help me when I had challenges in school. I felt overwhelmed at school and was unable to learn properly. My mood started to go down, which caused me to struggle with my addictions and mental health. Fortunately, I didn’t give up and I was able to gain a support system where I felt heard and with that was able to find a purpose in living

  • Philip Longum

    While attending university in Columbus Ohio I was in a catastrophic car accident. This is where I got my first taste of opioids, a sensation I would be chasing for decades. Early in my recovery I was doing some volunteer work at a youth hostel and the staff told me I would make a great Peer Support Worker. I had no idea what a Peer Support Worker was but did some research, took some courses, and immersed myself in the Peer Support community. I thought what an amazing concept using the most toxic period of my life to inspire hope in others. I left my job in sales marketing and pursued a career in Peer Support. Best decision I ever made. I have worked in Peer Support for over a decade and currently work for CMHA in the RAAM clinic (Rapid Access to Addiction medicine).

  • Raphaela Fagundes

    My name is Raphaela, and I go by Rapha. I have experienced the difficult loss of my loved brother through suicide at a young age, and I would like to advocate for system changes to better support those experiencing mental health disorders. I’ve been through a path of career change since then and have worked supporting individuals experiencing homelessness, mental health and/or substance use disorders in various settings in the community. I am grateful to be part of this panel and curious to learn about other’s experiences and perspectives and the ways in which I can contribute to positive changes.

“Without mental health, there can be no true physical health.” Dr. Brock Chisholm Canadian Psychiatrist First Director-General of the World Health Organization
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