What was called a 'landmark' agreement between five of the leading organizations responsible for people's health and wellness in Barrie was signed off on the collaborative document during a live Zoom meeting on Monday.
The City of Barrie, County of Simcoe, Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre (RVH), Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit, and Barrie Police Service signed on the dotted line to put the Barrie Health Accord into motion.
While the organizations often work together from time to time on different issues, Barrie Mayor Jeff Lehman said the accord is a long-term agreement to collaborate on addressing the health challenges facing the community.
“I don't believe there has been a comprehensive effort by local government and health care together to say, how do we collaborate to target those things that we know have the biggest impact on the long-term health of the community,” said Lehman. “Those root causes are things like food, nutrition, active living, housing, and the other determinants of health.’
The goal of the accord is to look to addressing those root causes that are driving demand for emergency services and treatment.
Dr. Charles Gardner, medical officer of health for the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit, said working on the pandemic is an opportunity to forge the group and give it an immediate task to pursue.
“Certainly COVID is pressing and certainly every agency that is represented here is part of the response,” Gardner said. “I have worked with all of you in the response; we’ve had to really watch out and collaborate together in the response. Having a formal accord that will look beyond the moment (and) look beyond what we face right now is good, but right off the bat people have to continue working on the pandemic together.”
Simcoe County Warden George Cornell believes the accord allows the groups to be more proactive in helping people and determine what the issues are.
“Through the pandemic, and Mayor Lehman and Dr. Gardner have been involved in this, but our homelessness and how we’ve looked at innovative and creative ways to deal with those situations,” said Cornell. “By no means is that done and we need to focus on that issue more and we need to think of more ways to help over the longer term for those folks.”
RVH president and CEO Janice Skot talked about the beginnings of the accord — “the day you plant the seed is not the day you eat the fruit.”
“In the next two decades, Barrie’s population is going to double and it is also aging. This combination will put a huge strain on our system,” Skot said. “With these partners and so many others, it's just vital that we work together so that we can really shape the community around health and wellness.
"I believe that, together, we’ll find solutions to reduce chronic disease," she added.
Some collaborations are already in place.
Barrie Police Chief Kimberley Greenwood said since early 2019, a non-uniformed officer has been paired with a crisis worker from the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) and together they respond to 911 calls where there is a concern for mental health. There's also follow-up afterwards.
“Our members regularly work with individuals in crisis in our community to ensure that they are given access to health and wellness resources,” Greenwood said. “This is just one example of how strong partnerships within the city of Barrie can assist individuals and families who may need support from more than one single service provider.”