You are currently viewing Healthcare Faces Dual Challenges of Opioid Crisis and Funding Uncertainties as Barrie Struggles to Tackle Skyrocketing Housing and Rental Costs

Healthcare Faces Dual Challenges of Opioid Crisis and Funding Uncertainties as Barrie Struggles to Tackle Skyrocketing Housing and Rental Costs

During last week’s City Council Meeting at Barrie City Hall, three presentations were made. 

The first presentation was by the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit, focusing on public health in the region. The second presentation discussed updates on the affordable housing strategy, while the third presentation addressed the homeless prevention strategy by the County of Simcoe.

In a council meeting, Medical Officer of Health Charles Gardner explained that the key responsibilities of the health unit include guiding disease prevention and promoting health. These responsibilities span from ensuring safe drinking water and facilitating vaccinations to managing emergency preparedness and reproductive health initiatives.

Gardner pointed out that despite the severe impact of the recent pandemic, leading to over 700 deaths in Simcoe Muskoka, the potential mortality rate was significantly reduced. This was achieved through diligent surveillance and the administration of over 1.5 million vaccine doses. These efforts were also recognized with a commendation from First Nations primary care services.

Gardner also touched on the opioid crisis that exacerbated during the pandemic due to disrupted services, leading to an increase in mortality rates.

He revealed that the health unit’s funding comes from both provincial sources and obligated municipalities like Barrie, expressing some uncertainty about future provincial financial support.

Finally, Gardner urged the council members to bear in mind the profound impact of their decisions on population health, with an emphasis on those most vulnerable.

The second presentation discussed the affordable housing strategy, which is structured in three stages. The first phase is currently nearing its conclusion, which comprises a thorough housing needs assessment, scrutinizing the prevailing market conditions and pinpointing the housing gaps.

The data presented indicates a clear discrepancy between supply and demand in housing. Over the previous decade, the standard price for resale homes in Barrie surged by 170%, while income saw a growth of only around 34%. In spite of a recent drop in housing prices attributed to adjusted interest rates, the issue of housing affordability remains unresolved. Meanwhile, rental rates in Barrie are increasing rapidly, with many options now exceeding $2,000 a month, which is only considered affordable for households earning $80,000 or more per year.

Looking ahead, the second phase will focus on creating strategies to address the affordable housing crisis in Barrie, drawing from successful and unsuccessful lessons from elsewhere. The final phase will involve updating the formal affordable housing strategy document for final approval.

Mina Fayez-Bahgat the General Manager, Social & Community Services for county of simcoe presented homelessless prevention strategy. 

He said a three-fold development in the past year has led to a 10-point strategy to address homelessness. 
Firstly, a shelter system review was conducted to better understand the needs of the current system. 
Secondly, significant increases in funding were received from both provincial and federal sources. The provincial funding increased by 86% to $9.2 million, a year after a federal funding was increased from $700,000 to $3.6 million.
Lastly, a public-facing data strategy is being developed to inform future investment decisions. 

The two primary goals of the 10-point plan are to end chronic homelessness and to prevent homelessness by lowering the number of people at risk. Measures will be taken to make affordable housing more attainable, create supportive housing programs, and utilize existing housing stock more effectively.

Fayez-Bahgat said the county is introducing a variety of strategies to address homelessness. These include providing secure storage options for personal belongings, launching a humanistic outreach program to foster relationships and guide those experiencing homelessness to available services, boosting supportive housing availability, streamlining shelter access, and enhancing the quality of community shelter services with increased funding. The goal is to improve housing outcomes and decrease chronic homelessness using open data to improve efficiency and effectiveness.

The county is enhancing eviction prevention services, offering increased funds to individuals and families at risk of eviction. It is also improving the shelter service system by offering grants for immediate repairs and accessibility improvements. Additionally, it is investing in new opportunities to create more affordable housing. These measures aim to prevent homelessness and end chronic homelessness by achieving a one-to-one ratio from intake to exit.

0:00 Intro




Leave a Reply