Barrie Health Accord will provide long-term solutions for community health and safety

(Barrie, ON) The establishment of a landmark agreement between five of the leading organizations responsible for health and well-being in Barrie will take place on Monday. The City of Barrie, County of Simcoe, Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre (RVH), Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit (SMDHU), and the Barrie Police Service will take part in signing the Barrie Health Accord.   

The signing of the Accord will take place during a virtual event on October 26 at 1 p.m. Media are invited toregister to view the event.

The COVID-19 pandemic has underlined the need to build resilient and sustainable communities and the need to change how we address long term community health. Since early 2020, Mayor Jeff Lehman has been in discussions with leadership of the five organizations regarding collaborating on future planning for community wellness in the city through a new Accord. While recognizing the need for growing acute care and emergency services, the goal of the Accord is shifting investment upstream, looking to address the root causes of health conditions that are driving demand for emergency services and treatment. Addressing root causes is the core objective of the ShiftGovernment Project at the City and has been an objective of many government programs and other individual initiatives. 

Mayor Lehman believes the Health Accord is a first step towards a new, collaborative path for Barrie in addressing the most urgent issues. “I've been working to pull together these five organizations—who collectively control annual budgets of more than $1.2B—because we have the chance to change our future. For far too long, we have had to focus on being reactive, on emergency response. Addressing root causes together is the way we will shape a healthier, safer future for all our residents," says Mayor Lehman.

“As our population increases dramatically, so does the demand for the specialized care RVH provides, but we know the focus on health and wellness must begin outside our health centre walls," explains Charlotte Wallis, Board of Directors Chair, Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre. “As we plan for a major expansion of RVH, along with a new south campus, it's vital that partners work together to identify and address the issues that shape community health and wellbeing. The Barrie Health Accord will ensure we are all focused on the root causes—and solutions—that impact a healthy community."

As the discussions toward the Accord evolved, the Barrie Police Service has also been steering the Community Safety and Well-being Plan through its initial stages of planning and the focus on safety and justice issues.  However, as the project proceeded, the plan began to look at the social determinants of health such as housing, employment, and access to treatment. These are some of the same root causes that are being considered to address upstream in health care.

Angela Lockridge, Chair of the Police Board, notes: “The Barrie Police Service looks forward to continuing to work collaboratively with our partners to implement the Barrie Health Accord. Our members regularly work with individuals in crisis in our community to ensure they have access to health and wellness resources. This collaborative partnership, focused on long-term planning, will improve the health and wellness of our community as we grow over the coming years. We are committed to the safety and well-being of our community, and the Accord is an important and positive initiative."

As well, both the County of Simcoe and the SMDHU have expressed their support for the Accord.

“This is an important step to further much of the strategic work, programs, and services that the County and our partners deliver to our communities. County Council understands that Simcoe County is evolving and many of the challenges facing our residents and service partners are increasingly complex. This is a collaborative effort to identify local needs and root causes impacting our health and social services sectors, and proactively build creative solutions that assist our residents, while alleviating growing pressures on our system providers," says Simcoe County Warden George Cornell.

“The Health Unit has long focused on the determinants of health, housing, employment, basic income, and access to treatment. We look forward to collaborating on future planning of health care in our communities," notes Anita Dubeau, Chair, SMDHU Board.

Each of the five organizations approved a motion of support for the Accord at their Council/Board meetings over the last few months. Once signed, the Accord will start the critical work of aligning Barrie's health care and emergency service organizations toward broader community wellness, while continuing to invest in the emergency care and services needed in a growing city. The Accord marks the first agreement of its type in Canada, bringing local government, public health, a hospital, and a police service together to coordinate upstream health investments in a strategic, sustainable way. This would only be possible in a city where the leadership of these organizations are committed to collaborating on a better future. Recognizing the need for change, our community has taken an important first step in what we believe is needed to attain long term health and wellbeing.

“I hope we'll look back on today as the moment when we shifted onto a new path. When you steer a ship, just a little nudge onto a new heading results in a huge change as to where you end up over time. Change takes time and solving problems takes partners—an agreement to collaborate is the critical first step. Recognizing the need for change, our community has taken an important first step in what we believe is needed to attain long term health and wellbeing," said Mayor Lehman.

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Media Contact
Melanie Rumley
Communications Advisor
The City of Barrie
(705) 739-4220 ext. 4578
melanie.rumley@barrie.ca