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Current Year Centre for Addiction
and Mental Health

CAMH’s mobile research laboratory rolls into Windsor

May 1, 2012 - The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) is rolling into Windsor, Ontario with Canada’s first known mobile laboratory dedicated to research on mental health, substance use and violence problems.

“The mobile research lab provides a unique opportunity to work with local communities in diverse settings across Ontario,” says CAMH Scientist Dr. Samantha Wells. Dr. Wells heads the project Researching Health in Ontario Communities (RHOC), a series of studies that are run out of the lab.

As part of RHOC, CAMH scientists will be conducting research on stress, substance use, mental health, aggression, and health service experiences. The findings will help inform prevention and treatment services in Windsor and other communities that the lab will visit. After three months in Windsor, the lab will head to Leamington. Prior to Windsor, it was in Port Colborne and Welland. Ten residents of the Windsor-Essex region have been hired as research assistants on the project.

One study, headed by Dr. Wells, will look at the health care experiences of individuals with mental health and/or substance use problems to identify strengths and gaps in the treatment system.

Another, led by Dr. Kate Graham, Dr. Wells and Dr. Tara Dumas, will recruit young adult bar patrons to assess drinking behaviour (including pre-drinking or pre-gaming), experiences of aggression and violence, their motives and perceptions around alcohol-related aggression, as well as group dynamics that might affect aggression when drinking. This study’s long-term goal is the development of prevention and policy initiatives to reduce violence and injury among this high risk population.

According to Dr. Wells, “our research focuses on a wide range of topics relevant to many Ontarians, not just people with mental health or substance use problems.” 

A key aspect of RHOC, which is funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), is to engage local agencies. In each community, the research team works closely with an advisory committee composed of representatives from local and regional health and social service agencies. This enables researchers to learn about local issues, and facilitates use of the research results by community representatives.

“We are delighted by the enthusiastic response we have received in Windsor and by the project’s local advisory committee,” says Dr. Wells. “Our close collaboration with community stakeholders will ensure that we can deliver meaningful research results to agencies that will benefit the community in the long term.”

Windsor residents will be seeing RHOC advertisements inviting them to participate in the research; they may also be approached by the project’s local research assistants, who will be randomly selecting young adult bar patrons in the streets of downtown Windsor. The lab will be parked at 199 University Ave W, at the corner of University Ave and Victoria Ave, making it easily accessible to Windsor residents. After that, the lab will be based in Leamington for a month, giving county residents and agencies the opportunity to become involved and benefit from the research.

The mobile lab will be used to conduct interviews and surveys, and to take hair to measure stress and saliva samples to examine genetic information. Results from the studies will produce local knowledge about Ontario communities that is often not available from large-scale provincial or national surveys.

While RHOC is funded by the CIHR, the mobile research laboratory was supported by a grant from the Canada Foundation for Innovation.   

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