Betty-Lou Kristy is a bereaved mother in recovery from co-occurring alcohol/multi-drug addictions, trauma and mental health issues. She lost Pete, her 25-year-old son who also struggled with concurrent disorders to an accidental Oxycontin & psychiatric drug overdose on Dec. 23, 2001.
As a result of Pete’s death, Betty-Lou has dedicated her journey as a provincial systems level, lived experience and family advisor and advocate, helping to frame policy, governance, programming and funding. She also is an experienced speaker, trainer and facilitator.
Betty-Lou’s journey lead her to a full-time position as the Peer Support Substance Use & Provincial Systems Lead for an innovative initiative called the “Enhancing & Sustaining Peer Support Initiative, Mississauga Halton Region. This is led by Support & Housing-Halton through its peer support initiative TEACH (Teach Empower Advocate Community Health). The initiative is funded and supported by the Mississauga Halton LHIN (MH LHIN). The Initiative has 40 peer workers embedded into 11 MH LHIN funded and accredited Health Service Providers (HSPs).
The emergent and innovative nature of the initiative has created a pioneering approach to building the peer support work force and building capacity for the meaningful engagement of lived experience (patient) and family (caregiver) at systems level to positively influence policy, planning and governance.
Peer support provides a humanizing connection of hope and empowerment by modeling recovery and fostering mutual relationships that nurture safe space, familiarity and equitable common ground. This initiative introduces social change into a complex health care system which allows a shift to person-directed care and the empowerment of family.
Betty-Lou and the other 3 team members leading this Initiative were the recent recipients of the 2017 Addiction and Mental Health (AMHO) President’s Shield Award. Betty-Lou is also the recipient of the 2009 CAMH Transforming Lives Award and the 2012/13 Ministry of Health & Long-Term Care A.C.E Award recipient in the category of Partner Relations for her work with the Expert Advisory Narcotics.