Community Opioid/Overdose Capacity Building (COM-CAP)

COM-CAP is a four-year project funded by Health Canada’s Substance Use and Addiction Program and began in 2019. The goal of COM-CAP is to support community-led responses to opioid/overdose-related harms in communities across Ontario. This page provides information and resources related to the project and community opioid/overdose response.

COM-CAP Resource Tool

The COM-CAP Resource Tool is an interactive and curated collection of resources relevant to addressing opioid/overdose-related harms. These resources cover topics in: stigma and equity, data and information, evidence and practice, implementation and operational factors, and partnership, collaboration, and engagement.

Explore the Tool


In 2019, Health Canada (Substance Use and Addiction Program) funded our four-year project called “COMmunity Opioid/Overdose CAPacity Building” (COM-CAP). The goal of COM-CAP is to support community action on reducing opioid/overdose-related harms in Ontario.

The main aims of COM-CAP are:

  • Provide supports to strengthen knowledge, skills, and capacity for local opioid/overdose responses.
  • Evaluate the impact of supports.
  • Engage and share information across communities and networks responding to overdose-related harms.

COM-CAP is led by Public Health Ontario (PHO) in partnership with local, provincial, and national groups. We work closely with organizations and networks addressing opioid/overdose harms and provide supports that build on evidence, needs, gaps, as well as existing strengths and skills.

This project will help with our understanding of the role and effectiveness of centralized supports for local communities in the area of opioid/overdose harms.

Our areas of work were identified through information gathering and close collaboration with multiple partners and stakeholders, and fall into five priority areas.

This image provides a visual representation of COM-CAP’s main priority areas of work and related supports. The priority areas are organized in a circular graphic with the cross cutting priority area of ‘Stigma and Equity’ around the outside. There are an additional four priority areas and their supports organized within the circle. The first two priority areas are ‘Data and Information’ and ‘Evidence and Practice’. For those two first areas, supports will focus on knowledge development and improving access to that knowledge. The next area is ‘Implementation and Operational Factors’, which includes supports of tailoring strategies and adapting plans to leverage strengths and mitigate the impact of challenges. The last theme is ‘Partnership, Engagement and Collaboration’, which includes supports of consensus building with communities, fostering trust-based relationships rooted in meaningful engagement, and ongoing collaboration. Each theme is defined in more detail in the webpage text below the image.

  • Stigma and equity: is a cross-cutting priority area that should be integrated across all supports. It focuses on reducing stigma and mitigating impacts of structural power imbalances, which include racism, able-ism, and criminalization.

  • Data and information: focuses on facilitating access to data and information that can support communities and work in addressing overdose harms.

  • Evidence and practice: focuses on promoting, sharing, and developing evidence and best practices around reducing overdose harms.

  • Implementation and operational factors: focuses on the dynamics and conditions that affect the successful implementation of action or services. They include government, local infrastructure, and sustainable funding.

  • Partnership, engagement and collaboration: focuses on centering communities and community-based efforts in work on reducing the overdose crisis and reducing harms.



Core Team

Public Health Ontario

Pamela Leece, Public Health Physician and COM-CAP Lead

Pamela Leece (she/her) is a Public Health Physician with the Health Promotion, Chronic Disease and Injury Prevention  department at PHO.  She is an Assistant Professor cross-appointed with the Department of Family and Community Medicine and Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto. Pam also practices part-time as a Courtesy Staff in the Substance Use Service at Women’s College Hospital. Her current research focuses on public health approaches to substance use.

Caroline Bennett Abuayyash, Knowledge Exchange Specialist

Caroline (she/her) is a Knowledge Exchange Specialist with the Health Promotion, Chronic Disease and Injury Prevention department at PHO. She brings a diverse set of experiences in health equity and community collaborations. In the past she has led training and facilitation on various health equity conversations, led knowledge sharing in areas of equity and data, and consulted on building measurement and accountability around equity. Caroline’s education is in the area of social psychology.

Meron Mengistu, Research Coordinator

Meron (she/her) is a Research Coordinator with the Health Promotion, Chronic Disease and Injury Prevention department at PHO. Meron has led and collaborated on research in the area of implementation sciences, where she investigates the factors influencing implementation of vaccine programs and services in underserved communities. She is an enthusiastic advocate for the implementation of evidence-based policies and practices that promote health and equity.

OCAD University - Health Design Studio

Kate Sellen, Director and Principal Investigator at the Health Design Studio

Kate Sellen (she/her) is an Associate Professor in the Faculty of Design at OCAD University and a Tier 2 Canada Research Chair in Health Design. She is also the Director of the Health Design Studio at OCAD. While at OCAD Kate has served on several program committees as well as university-wide committees and initiatives and several hiring committees. Kate was the Inaugural Director of the Health Design Master's Program.

Maryam Mallakin, Research Assistant

Maryam Mallakin (she/her) is a design researcher and health designer focusing on both medical and health domains. Her cross-disciplinary experience in health science and design includes academic degrees and professional practice in anesthesiology, microbiology, environmental design, and health design. Maryam holds a Master of Design in Design for Health Her primary field of research and design interest lies at the intersection of mental and physical health and the intervention design of healthcare systems, services, products, and processes, particularly in the context of public health.  Maryam is also a Research Associate at the Health Design Studio, OCAD University.

Christina Dery, Research Assistant

Christina Dery (she/her) is a Senior Service Designer with the Public Service and holds a Research Assistant position with the Health Design Studio at OCAD University. She holds a Bachelor of Design (BDes) in Graphic Design and a Masters of Design (MDes) in Design for Health. She believes design has the power to help solve complex problems through human-centered, participatory design methods, and the power of storytelling to uplift the voices of those impacted by complex issues. Her focus on the human-centred design of experiences, processes, services, and products focus primarily in health-related domains and healthcare settings.

University of Toronto - Strategy Design and Evaluation Initiative

Robert Schwartz, Lead at the Strategy Design and Evaluation Initiative

Robert Schwartz (he/him) leads the Strategy Design and Evaluation Initiative at the University of.  He is a Professor at the Institute of Health Policy, Management and Evaluation at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto. He is also the Executive Director of the Ontario Tobacco Research Unit. Rob has made important contributions to the literature on evaluating complex strategies and has applied this knowledge in evaluating the Smoke-Free Ontario Strategy.  His formal training is in political science specializing in public policy and administration.

Sumedha Kushwaha, Evaluator

Sumedha Kushwaha (she/her) is a PhD Student at the Temerty Faculty of Medicine at the University of Toronto. She is also associated with the Center for Mental Health and Addiction. Her key focus areas of interest includes substance use and population health sciences.

Advisory Committee

Our Advisory Committee provides community-focused expertise and direction on how to centre the needs and experiences of impacted communities. Membership includes:

Brandon BaileyWindsor Overdose Prevention Society
Rob BoydOttawa Inner City Health
Wayne Bishop
, Eastern Health Newfoundland and Labrador
Jeanette BowlesCentre on Drug Policy Evaluation, MAP Centre for Urban Health Solutions
Jennifer LevyToronto Public Health
Joshua Nokonagos,Peel Drug User’s Network
Iye Sanneh, Canadian Association of People who Use Drugs
Ashley Smoke, Nat Kaminski, Ontario Network of People who Use Drugs
Darryl Souliere-Lamb, Nicole BlackmanIndigenous Primary Health Care Council
Lorie Steer, The Neighborhood Group

Scientific Team

Our Scientific Team provides ongoing consultations and expertise from community and academic partners. Membership includes:

Daniel Buchman, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health
Kim Corace, The Royal (Ottawa) & University of Ottawa
Alison Govier, Community Drug and Alcohol Strategy Grey-Bruce
Michael Hamilton, Institute for Safe Medication Practices Canada
Meldon Kahan, Women’s College Hospital
Karen Ng, Toronto Academic Pain Medicine Institute – Women’s College Hospital
Cynthia OlsenCity of Thunder Bay, Thunder Bay Drug Strategy
Bernie Pauly, Canadian Institute for Substance Use Research, University of Victoria
Greg Penney, Canadian Public Health Association
Carol Strike, Dalla Lana School of Public Health (University of Toronto)
Kate Sellen, OCAD University
Sheena TahaCanadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction

COM-CAP supports three local initiatives (“Community Initiatives”) focused on reducing opioid/overdose harms in their communities. We identified these initiatives through an open call for submissions. Our Selection Committee included people who use drugs, community organizations, researchers, and service providers and made the final decision on initiatives. Members of the Selection Committee were also invited with the goal of achieving intersectional representation that included Indigeneity, racialization, and gender.

COM-CAP also provides support to two provincial networks (“Collaborative Initiatives”) involved in community overdose response.  

Meet the Community Initiatives:

Black Coalition for AIDS Prevention
Black Coalition for AIDS Prevention (BlackCAP) is an organization delivering direct support services to Toronto’s African, Caribbean and Black communities living with or affected by HIV or AIDS. BlackCAP, in partnership with the Rexdale Community Health Centre and the North End Harm Reduction Network, is working on the ‘Opioid Awareness and Overdose Prevention Project’.

To learn more about BlackCAP, visit

Chatham-Kent Public Health
Chatham-Kent Public Health (CKPH) is a public health unit that provides programs and services that protect and promote the health and well-being of people living in the municipality of Chatham-Kent. CKPH is partnering with United Way and ROCK Missions on the ‘Peer-to-Peer Project’, which aims to develop, expand, and formalize peer-led outreach interventions. This work focuses on marginalized neighbourhoods in Chatham-Kent and uses a collaborative, community-driven, trauma and violence informed care approach.

To learn more about Chatham-Kent Public Health, visit

NorWest Community Health Centres
NorWest Community Health Centres (NorWest CHC) is a community health centre that provides primary care, prevention, and health promotion to people living in Thunder Bay and District. NorWest CHC is implementing an initiative in partnership with Dilico Anishinabek Family Care, Elevate NWO, Superior North Emergency Medical Service (EMS), and Thunder Bay District Health Unit. ‘Partnerships between Peers and Emergency Medical Service’ project is piloting a partnership between peers and emergency medical services (EMS) to identify and engage with people who may be at risk for using or overdosing alone in Thunder Bay.

To learn more about NorWest Community Health Centres, visit

Meet the Collaborative Initiatives:

Drug Strategy Network of Ontario
The Drug Strategy Network of Ontario (DSNO) is a provincial network that formed in 2009 (formerly the Municipal Drug Strategy Coordinators Network of Ontario, MDSCNO) and includes municipal drug strategy representatives from across Ontario. DSNO members aim to stay connected, work together, and share best practices toward promoting health and reducing substance-related harms for individuals, families and communities. 

To learn more about the Drug Strategy Network of Ontario, visit

Ontario Network of People who Use Drugs
Ontario Network of People Who Use Drugs (ONPUD) is a new provincial association led by founding members with diverse lived/living experience of drug use. Its mission is to inform and shape policies, programs and services related to drug use, with a vision of an Ontario where all people who use drugs can thrive.

To learn more about the Ontario Network of People who Use Drugs, visit

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Updated 19 July 2023