Durham District School Board’s (DDSB) new Mental Health Leader Allison Potts may be new to the role, but she has a long history of working with area students and educators to promote student mental health and well-being.
The role itself is new to DDSB, funded by the Province as part of the 10-year multi-Ministry strategy called Open Minds, Healthy Minds. The first three years of the strategy are devoted to children and youth mental health and addictions under the leadership of the Ministry of Children and Youth Services, and includes the introduction of Mental Health Leaders to each school board in Ontario.
Potts joins the DDSB after 17 years working in Durham with Lakeridge Health’s Mental Health and Pinewood Centre Program. A social worker by training, Potts most recently held the role of Concurrent Disorders System Integration Lead with Lakeridge Health.
In that role, “I was able to offer teacher training related to mental health and substance use, provide mental health education to students and develop system-wide capacity-building initiatives focused on integrated approaches to mental health and substance use concerns,” Potts said.
Potts has also long been involved with the Durham Talking About Mental Illness (TAMI) Coalition, a group of community partners that includes DDSB working toward a goal of increasing knowledge and decreasing stigma around mental illness.
“When I saw the posting for a Mental Health Leader with the DDSB, the opportunity to integrate my previous experiences with my passion for education within a system committed to strategic and systemic approaches to mental health felt like a perfect fit,” Potts said. “I love the energy of schools and the opportunity to reach children and youth where they spend so much of their day.”
In her new role, Potts will have responsibility for conducting and updating board and school level resource mapping, to determine areas of strength and need; providing leadership for the Board mental health team; working with senior administration to develop and implement the board mental health and addictions strategy; coordinating systematic mental health literacy initiatives in the board; selecting and supporting evidence-based approaches to mental health promotion and prevention; and, collaborating with board and community professionals to promote clear and integrated access to services.
Potts’ arrival at DDSB coincides with the inaugural year of the Board’s five-year strategic mental health plan, entitled “Linking Healthy Minds for a Positive Future: Mental Health and Addictions Strategic Plan, 2013-2018.”
“We have clearly identified the mental health and well-being of our entire school and staff communities as a priority,” said Doug Crichton, Superintendent of Education – Special Education/Grove School. “All research clearly points to mental health being key to student success. We know adding a Mental Health Leader with Allison’s extraordinary experience and expertise will aid in meeting that goal.”