December 7, 2020
Dr. Yogesh Thakker, left, accepts the True Imagination Award on behalf of the Innovations in Practice Conference Committee at the 2020 Lieutenant Governor’s Circle on Mental Health and Addiction. The award was presented by Alberta Lt.-Gov. Salma Lakhani, right, in recognition of the committee’s work in highlighting the challenges of children and adults who live with developmental disabilities, intellectual disabilities and Autism Spectrum Disorder. Photo supplied.
Story by Vanessa Gomez
An Alberta Health Services’ (AHS) conference that highlighted the mental health challenges faced by children and adults is the recipient of the 2020 Lieutenant Governor’s Circle on Mental Health and Addiction – True Imagination Award.
The award is presented annually to recognize the commitment of those who work to reduce the stigma and improve the lives of people who live with mental illness and addiction.
This year’s honours celebrate the 2019 Innovations in Practice Conference Committee, a two-day event held in October of that year, and the second of its kind. It featured keynote speakers who addressed the challenges of living with developmental disabilities, intellectual disabilities and Autism Spectrum Disorder in children and adults.
“The conference came out of a need to have a forum where we could meet and share the research, information and the impactful work being done in this field of mental health,” says Dr. Yogesh Thakker, conference chair and a consultant psychiatrist with AHS.
The conference also highlighted the services and interventions currently available in Alberta to boost awareness for families of resources and education to help them and their loved ones.
The True Imagination Award was presented at a socially-distanced celebration on Oct. 22 this year at Government House, where it was accepted by Dr. Thakker and Clayton Kleparchuk, program manager, Tertiary & Residential Services, Addiction & Mental Health.
Notable guests in attendance at the awards ceremony included Alberta’s Lt.-Gov. Salma Lakhani, Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Jason Luan and David Shepherd, MLA for Edmonton–City Centre.
The 2019 Innovations in Practice Conference has proven itself as one of the largest conferences in the nation dedicated to this population, and received very positive feedback, according to organizers. It attracted 450 people from across Canada, including psychiatrists, general practitioners, frontline Addiction and Mental Health clinicians, teachers, support workers, families and individuals with lived experiences.
“We were shocked at the response we had,” says Kleparchuk. “The success of the first conference really gave us momentum and elevated the level of interest in this work on a national level. We know we have good people around us willing to share their expertise — not just physicians, but families of those with lived experience, as well.”
While the conference garnered great success, it also brought many challenges — one of them being time.
“Time was definitely a challenge,” says Dr. Thakker. “A lot of planning came from the personal time of those involved — but there’s a lot of passion and dedication within the group and the community.
“We are proud of the work we do in Alberta, and we are very honoured and humbled to receive this award. It’s really validated the work we do — and pushes us to carry on and do better next year.”