The Heads Together Think Tank is an initiative of the Constable Gerald Breese Centre for Traumatic Life Losses. This project is British Columbia’s opportunity for conversation and collaboration on meeting the needs of people through improved services for mental health, addictions, and brain injury.

We gratefully acknowledge the financial assistance of the Province of British Columbia and Vancouver Foundation.



Real People – Real Stories

Real Conversations in search of Real Solutions

The experiences of individuals and families in British Columbia who are living with the implications of mental health, addictions, and a brain injury is the foundation of this project. Register today to hear their insightful stories and join in the conversation to collaborate on what’s needed to improve services for a better life.


Stories from survivors

Survivors of brain injury share their profound journey through mental health, addictions, and brain injury. They will share their journey of homelessness, incarceration, and struggling for years without knowing any services were available to them. Prepare to be inspired and moved by their courage and will to create change for themselves and their communities.


Stories from family members

The impact of a brain injury affects the entire family. The added pressures of navigating a fragmented system to find supports that include mental health and/or addiction services is daunting. Hear these families share what they need from the outside world so they can thrive and rebuild their lives.

Stories from professionals

Hear from individuals, like Geri Bemister Williams, who have overcome all odds to rebuild and redesign their life and are now serving professionally in the mental health, addictions, and brain injury communities.

You don’t want to miss hearing Geri’s story of triumph. She understands the path of mental health, addictions, and brain injury and is passionate about her work in helping others. She is an amazing speaker with an incredible message.  You can learn more about Geri’s work here.

Rehabilitation & Community Supports

Exploring concrete steps for integrating services to serve mental health, addictions, and brain injury in our communities. 

Everyone deserves to have a sense of belonging in their community. People living with mental health issues, addictions, and/or a brain injury often feel disconnected from loved ones, family, friends, and the community-at-large. We know they do better when the services needed are accessible, equitable, client-centered, wellness focused, culturally safe, diversified, and flexible. Too often, however, the services are siloed and a person and their family are challenged to navigate a fragmented system. In some instances, the system feels non-existent.

We want to hear about what is working in communities across the province and to collaborate on how wrap-around services can be developed, expanded, and improved to help people thrive in their journey with better outcomes. 

Dr. Don Castaldi: Supporting Individuals Through Valued Attachment

Dr. Don Castaldi is the founder and Executive Director of DC Waterstone Services a multi-service organization created with a commitment to increase understanding of human behaviour and inspire people and groups to thrive and grow irrespective of circumstance, mental health or history. He is also the co-founder of the internationally recognized relationship-based support program S.I.V.A. (Supporting Individuals through Valued Attachments) Training. Holding a doctorate in clinical psychology with specializations in attachment, trauma and forensics, Dr. Castaldi has over 25 years of experience and is a perennial advisor and international speaker to numerous organizations and professionals in support of individuals impacted by mental health, neurodevelopment and brain injury.

Brain Injury Alliance: A Personal Challenge, A Community Response

The Brain Injury Alliance, established in 2014, administers the Brain Injury Fund (BIF), established by the Province of BC in 2015. The membership of the Alliance comprises 13 brain injury societies that collectively provide services and programs to some 4000 individuals who are living with a brain injury, annually.

The board of the Alliance, elected by the membership, adjudicates grant requests and distributes approximately one million dollars annually from the BIF to help fund member agency delivered programs and services.

Why does the Alliance matter? 

  • Community brain injury societies are an important component of the health and human service sector in BC.
  • Alliance funding is vital to service provision for more than 4000 British Columbians with brain injuries annually.
  • Funds distributed by the Alliance has improved timely access to quality brain injury services at the community level.
  • Programs and services delivered with the aid of Alliance funding are delivered at no charge to the person with a brain injury.
  • Alliance funding fosters innovation and efficiency at the community level.

For more information on the Brain Injury Alliance, visit here.

Research and Prevention

*NEW* Best practices Canada-wide to address the intersections of Mental Health, Addiction & Brain Injury

Register to hear first-hand the recent Canada-wide environmental scan of identified best practices to serve individuals who are living with a brain injury and who are also experiencing mental health and/or addiction challenges. Our voices are needed to determine how research and prevention can be a part of the solution.

Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) & Brain Injury

Karen Mason is co-founder and director of community practice for SOAR (Supporting Survivors of Abuse and Brain Injury through Research) , and former executive director of Kelowna Women’ Shelter. A seasoned and passionate non-profit leader, communicator, and community collaborator, Karen brings 30+ years of career experience to her work advocating for survivors of intimate partner violence (IPV).  

Dr. Paul van Donkelaar is co-founder and principal investigator for SOAR (Supporting Survivors of Abuse and Brain Injury through Research), and a professor in the School of Health and Exercise Sciences at the University of British Columbia’s Okanagan campus. His program of research focusses on the basic mechanisms of sensorimotor control and the cerebrovascular, neurocognitive, and sensorimotor aspects of brain dysfunction resulting from traumatic brain injury (TBI).

Reinforcing Communities

Bringing innovation from different areas of the province to one place for sharing, review, and expansion.

The increased number of brain injuries resulting from overdoses is concerning. These individuals are often younger and may require a higher level of care. Communities need to be able to respond.

People are able to do the work of healing when the community they live in is strong and can provide the services they need. In turn, the more a person thrives, so too, will the community.

This event opens the conversation on what is needed to strenghten communities on all levels to address the intersections of mental health, addictions, and brain injury with the development of an integrated provincial service delivery plan which considers disparities between the quality, options, and accessibility of services and supports across the health authorities.

Please join us so your voice is heard!

Services for People with Complex Needs: Past and Present ~ Dr. John Higenbottam

Dr. John Higenbottam is a clinical psychologist and neuropsychologist who has held senior clinical leadership positions in British Columbia   including Vice President, Vancouver Hospital and Health Sciences Centre, Vice President, BC Rehab and Vice President, Riverview Hospital.

 John has also held several academic positions, including Adjunct Associate Professor, University of Victoria, Associate Dean and Chair, Psychology at Douglas College. He is currently Faculty Emeritus, Douglas College and Clinical Professor, Department of Psychiatry, UBC. John is also Editor in Chief, Canadian Journal of Community Mental Health which has become an important venue for Canadian mental health research.

 John is Chair, Psychosocial Rehabilitation, Réadaptation Psychosociale Canada (PSR/RPS Canada) and Chair of its BC Chapter. PSR Canada is Canada’s major organization promoting Psychosocial Rehabilitation (PSR) practices as essential to recovery and mental health system reform. BC and served for two terms as Chair, Canadian Alliance for Mental Illness and Mental Health (CAMIMH), Canada’s major alliance of 19 national mental health organizations. He is also a Director, BC’s Community Action Initiative.

 John also served two terms as a member of the Mental Health Commission of Canada’s Service Systems Advisory Committee. While on this committee, he co-led a major national study and report on mental health housing, Turning the Key.

 John’s major clinical and research interests are in developing, implementing and evaluating effective, recovery oriented services for people with complex needs.


Overdose Survival and Brain Injury ~ Dr. Elizabeth Plant

*Important* Join us to hear the concerns of Dr. Elizabeth Plant regarding overdose survival and brain injury. Dr. Plant’s current roles include the Cowichan District Addiction Medicine Consult Service (AMCS), AMCS Community, outreach at the overdose prevention site, and developing substance use supports for youth. She has completed her addiction medicine fellowship with the British Columbia Centre for Substance.


Download the report on the proceedings from the Heads Together Think Tank or get the infographic, with a summation and a call to action.