With mental health issues more prevalent now than ever, the County of Lennox and Addington has received national recognition for its Corporate Peer Support Program ‘It’s OK not to be OK.’ The initiative has received the 2021 Willis Award for Innovation for a 20,001-100,000 population size from the Canadian Association of Municipal Administrators (CAMA).
The award was presented during CAMA’s Virtual Awards of Excellence Ceremony held on Tuesday, May 11, 2021.
“We are thrilled to receive this recognition from CAMA. It is a privilege to provide this support to all staff at the County of Lennox & Addington, particularly as we continue to navigate these challenging and uncertain times,” said Trina McGarvey, Director of Human Resources for Lennox & Addington County. “We are grateful to Brenda Orchard, Chief Administrative Officer, and Council for their leadership and commitment to make this initiative and its success possible.”
The ‘It’s OK not to be OK’ initiative dates back to 2019, when the County first began re-tooling its existing peer support program along with its four Health & Safety Committees to develop the Peer Support Team. The Peer Support Team provides confidential, peer-based debriefings to any employees who have experienced work-related trauma or incidents, or during times of stressful work or personal events.
“CAMA is pleased to recognize the County of Lennox & Addington for their peer support program for employees of all service areas,” said Jake Rudolph, outgoing president of the CAMA and Chief Administrative Officer for the City of Nanaimo, BC. “Having a resource for employees to turn to after experiencing a difficult situation at work can make a big difference to their mental health.”
In early 2020, when many services were being scaled back because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Peer Support Team realized the importance of providing this service to their co-workers and “doubled-down” on their efforts. This resulted in the program launching months earlier than anticipated, the County said in a press release. According to Lennox and Addington County, the Peer Support Team “assists in fostering a culture of inclusion and helps staff feel more empowered and hopeful,” and also “Promotes a productive and engaged workforce, supports employees, and reduces costs related to absenteeism and turnover.”
“There were 35 submissions from across the country entered into this year’s CAMA Awards of Excellence program,” explained Marc Melanson, Chair for the 2021 CAMA Awards Jury, CAMA representative for New Brunswick, and City Manager for the City of Dieppe, NB. “The scope of projects, from municipalities, both large and small, was impressive and I extend my congratulations to the winners, as well as those who took the time to enter a submission.”