The Ottawa Community Action Plan (OCAP)

The OCAP is a collaborative, network-based strategy with an overarching goal of reducing harms from substance use.

OPH is providing backbone support towards the success of the OCAP. To ensure a collective and impactful approach, agencies are working closely with the Ottawa Overdose Prevention and Response Task Force, advisory groups, stakeholder groups and partners.

The plan is intended to be inclusive and include engagement with a broad range of individuals, agencies and existing networks representing people with living experience and expertise, Indigenous Peoples, newcomers, visible minorities, women, LGBTQ++ and priority populations.

Our objectives are to make tangible improvements in reducing the harms from substance use across the lifespan, through three key goals, and in mental health.

Three key goals
  1. Preventing stigma and problematic substance use
  2. Emerging harm reduction initiatives that can reduce harms associated with opioid use
  3. Collaborating and integrating across the system to centralize access to comprehensive mental health, substance use and social services leading to increased access and uptake of services

Learn more about the initiatives being undertaken under each of the goals by visiting the Ottawa Community Action Plan (2019) report.

Guiding principles
A number of guiding principles create the foundation for the partnerships and the plan:
  • Designing and implementing initiatives using best practices;
  • Ensuring people with lived experience are involved in all phases of the strategy;
  • Leveraging the expertise and experience of all partners in the co-design;
  • Adopting an evidence-based approach to continuously learn and improve;
  • Planning for sustainability from the start;
  • Ensuring that all aspects of the Ottawa Community Action Plan are carried out.

The OCAP complements OPH’s mental health and substance use strategic direction and the work of partners. OPH along with partners, will continue to work together to develop and implement this plan to promote wellness, address stigma, prevent problems from occurring from substance use, support emerging harm reduction initiatives, and promote collaboration and integration across the system.

Development of the OCAP - how did we get here?

Acknowledging that numerous initiatives in the field of Substance Use and Mental Health have been undertaken by community agencies, individuals and OPH prior to 2018, the following timeline highlights the unique conception and development of the OCAP.

The work and actions by community agencies, individuals and OPH leading up to 2018 have been foundational in the creation of the OCAP today.

The development process for the OCAP was and continues to be done in collaboration and close consultation with individuals and community partners.


OPH, in collaboration with partners and stakeholders, was in the process of developing a Comprehensive Substance Use and Mental Health – Focus on Opioids strategy.

As input to the strategy, a consultation was undertaken by OPH and The Strategic Counsel (TSC), a professional market research firm, seeking feedback from various stakeholders, including partners, agencies and individuals with living experience. The findings, based on input from over 70 stakeholders, are summarized in the Comprehensive Mental Health and Substance Use – Focus on Opioids Strategy: Findings from Consultation report. A consensus emerged among stakeholders regarding several areas which were viewed as key to moving forward and achieving further progress. These became the three areas for discussion at the 2019 Ottawa Summit.


On February 7, 2019, the Ottawa Summit on Opioids, Substance Use and Mental Health was convened as a joint initiative between OPH, The Royal and CAPSA.  The day-long Summit brought together, in-person, more than 200 community members.  Using a workshop approach, table discussions and expert panel discussions, participants shared ideas and identified priorities for action and a series of comprehensive next steps under each of the three key goal topic areas.

The following reports were produced subsequent to the 2019 Summit, outlining areas for improvements, actions and next steps.

Post-Summit Summary Report (2019) and a Post-Summit Executive Summary (2019) outline the discussions and the key takeaways from the 2019 Summit. The report was used as a foundation for the development of the OCAP.

In September 2019, the Ottawa Community Action Plan (2019) was released. It outlines how tangible improvements could be made within the community to reduce harms related to substance use and mental health.


Diverse community and national partners have continued to lead on the actions outlined in the plan. The Ottawa Community Action Plan Highlights Report (2020) outlines some of the steps that have been taken.

To continue to move the OCAP forward, the 2020 Virtual Summit was hosted by Ottawa Public Health (OPH), Community Addictions Peer Support Association (CAPSA), The Royal, Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction (CCSA) and the Canadian Public Health Association (CPHA). This event brought together more than 160 attendees with varying perspectives and expertise to discuss issues and ideas for further action.

The discussions and the key takeaways from the 2020 Summit are outlined in the Post-Summit Summary Report (2020) and the Post-Summit Executive Summary (2020).


On September 20, 2021, the Ottawa Board of Health approved the Ottawa Public Health’s 2019-2022 Strategic Plan: Strategic Priority Relating to Mental Health and Substance Use Health

The strategy includes recommendations to improve access to and quality of mental health care, for increased capacity for special intensive mental health services in the community and recommends the implementation of a municipal dashboard to monitor and report on mental health and substance use health services within the city.

The Board received a presentation from OPH’s Harm Reduction and School and Mental Health and Substance Use Program Managers, as well as from eight public delegations, all of whom expressed support for the report and recommendations, as well as for OPH’s work and partnerships in this area. The Board then voted to approve the report recommendations. 


Comprehensive Mental Health and Substance Use – Focus on Opioids Strategy: Findings from Consultation

Post-Summit Summary Report (2019)

Post-Summit Executive Summary (2019) 

Ottawa Community Action Plan (2019) 

Ottawa Community Action Plan Highlights Report (2020)

Post-Summit Summary Report (2020)

Post-Summit Executive Summary (2020)

Ottawa Public Health’s 2019-2022 Strategic Plan: Strategic Priority Relating to Mental Health and Substance Use Health

Next steps

Amid the pandemic, the goals outlined in the OCAP are as relevant as ever to the people of Ottawa. OPH along with our partners are actively engaged in the activities outlined in the OCAP. We are collectively planning and addressing priority action areas identified through the 2020 Virtual Summit.

OPH and our partners are continuously adapting to a new way of working and supporting our communities in the context of COVID-19. Please see our Mental Health, Substance Use and COVID-19 page for more information on Substance Use and Mental Health in the pandemic.

What can you do?

Help prevent stigma

Use "person first" language

Person first language acknowledges someone as a person before describing personal attributes or health conditions. It respects people's worth and dignity, promotes help-seeking behavior and avoids perpetuating negative stereotypes.  

Examples of respectful Person-First Language in the context of Substance Use Health and Mental Health:  

Learn more about how you can help reduce stigma.

Thank you

We would like to thank the OCAP Steering Committee partners for the work that they are doing to support the health and well-being of our community. The OCAP Steering Committee partners include:

  • The Community Addictions Peer Support Association (CAPSA). CAPSA, a not-for profit corporation, works to reduce stigma and discrimination towards people with substance use disorders, by leading education, training, advocacy and community engagement projects. Through this work, peer support initiatives and by providing opportunities to integrate into the broader community, CAPSA strives to empower individuals impacted by substance use disorder. CAPSA supports all pathways to increased health and endeavour to collaborate with other organizations that provide services for those seeking help. 
  • The Royal. The Royal is one of Canada’s foremost mental health and addictions care, teaching and research hospitals. Through co-creating hope, access and new possibilities with clients, families, community partners and those with lived expertise, The Royal collaborates to deliver modern, highly-specialized mental health and addictions care and engages in cutting-edge research and education.
  •  The Kids Come First Health Team. Kids Come First is a network of partners in Eastern Ontario working to create a high quality, standardized and coordinated system for pediatric health care that is centred around children, youth and their families.
  • The Ottawa Hospital. The Ottawa Hospital is a compassionate provider of patient-centered care with an emphasis on tertiary-level and specialty care, primarily for residents of Eastern Ontario.
  • The Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction (CCSA). CCSA is a non-governmental organization providing national leadership on substance use and advancing solutions to address alcohol- and other drug-related harms.
  • The Canadian Public Health Association (CPHA). CPHA is the independent voice for public health in Canada with links to the international community.

Their contributions, along with many other community partners are key to advancing this work.
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