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Edgewood Health Network provides employees with various opportunities and space for growth within their relationship-building community.Tanvi Madkaiker/Supplied

Early in 2022, when Tammy Sergie took on the role of senior director, people and culture, at the national mental health and addiction services company Edgewood Health Network, Inc. (EHN Canada), she discovered something that both surprised and delighted her. The president and CEO of EHN Canada, Joe Manget, makes a point of leading a hike for patients in the park-like grounds at Bellwood Health Services, the company’s Toronto facility, every second Friday.

“It speaks to the fact that we all believe our patients’ health and their journey to recovery is the responsibility of all of us, from administration to clinical practitioners to support and maintenance staff,” says Sergie. “All our employees work really hard to address what we consider the true pandemic of our society, which is mental illness and addiction. There’s a lot of heart in what our people do and how they approach work, because we believe we save lives.

“We work together to support our patients in areas where public health care is not able to support the community,” she continues. “Our employees work with individuals who are in a space in their lives where they need a lot of support, so our teams also work very closely together to support each other. Our people are the biggest asset to the organization.”

Noah Mugenyi, a primary clinician at Bellwood, agrees that the hospital’s committed team approach is key. He has direct experience of the trauma that can lead to mental illness and substance abuse: He grew up in war-torn Uganda, and he and his older brother were both captured and forced into becoming child soldiers. Noah lost his older sister in the war and, later, his older brother died as a result of alcohol addiction and scars of trauma that had not been dealt with.

He has learned that a consolidated approach is crucial to helping people surmount trauma and addiction. “All of us at Bellwood really have that vibe of team spirit,” he says, “which I think is an essential ingredient for facilitating wellness for the people.

“This is a relationship-building community. Whether we’re cleaners or doctors, we all look at our clients as the main purpose for us to get up every day.”

One of the many ways in which EHN Canada supports its workforce, says Sergie, is its belief in grooming its staff and promoting from within. “We take every opportunity we can to move our employees through their career path before turning to external markets to fill a position.”

That translates into an array of in-house and external training opportunities. “We do a good job of assessing people’s potential and then equipping them with the right tools and resources for their growth,” she says. “We subsidize a lot of our staff who are interested in completing their master’s or PhDs.”

As an example of the focus on advancement through the organization, she cites Bellwood executive director Joanna Anderson, who started as a substance abuse counsellor in 2017 and moved up through senior roles, also serving as executive director at EHN Canada’s Gateway Treatment Centre in Peterborough, before she assumed her current position in February 2022. “That’s something you wouldn’t see in the public sector,” Sergie observes.

She adds that the CEO-led walks also speak to the fact that Bellwood is located in what she calls “an absolutely breathtaking” – and healing – setting, adjacent to Sunnybrook Park. “We’re able to offer our patients and employees the opportunity to go for a walk in a ravine with beautiful hikes. Connection to nature is very important to us and is actually part of some of our clinical programs.”

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