SCIO Community Magazine
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Winter 2021

Community Magazine Cover Winter 2021

Opening Notes: Honest Optimism!

Stuart Howe
Dr. Stuart Howe | CEO, Spinal Cord Injury Ontario

When I think about the core characteristics of Spinal Cord Injury Ontario, one phrase always come to mind: Honest Optimism. This is a phrase we used a lot three or four years ago when we were refocusing our strategic objectives, our branding and our communications. What is Honest Optimism? To me, it is resolutely focusing on making a brighter future, reaching the light at the end of the tunnel, but not in a Pollyanna-ish “smile, don’t worry, it’s all going to be great”, but rather grounded with a realization that there will be bumps in the road, hurdles to overcome and times where life can appear dark.

In this edition of Community, you will read a lot about how COVID-19 has impacted our community; the challenges, the isolation, the anxiety, but also how our community has been agile, resilient, and how we have all come together to help each other through this extraordinary time.

As I write this, during the cold winter days of COVID-19 Lockdown 2.0, it is this embodiment of togetherness, of community, that has the organization truly approaching the early months of 2021 with an overwhelming sense of Honest Optimism.

Last September our Board of Directors came together (virtually, of course!) to review our organizational priorities considering the pandemic and all the other changes that were already underway in our sector, for example, the creation of Ontario Health Teams and employment regional System Service Managers. Whilst our broad strategic priorities, Expanding Our Impact, Sharing Knowledge and Amplifying our Community’s Voice, remain as valid today as they did three and a half years ago, the Board has challenged us to double-down our efforts in three areas: access to mental health supports, access to virtual health care and increasing our capacity for advocacy.

I doubt any of these areas will be a surprise to you.

Every one of us is living through an event that is unparalleled in our lifetime. The pandemic has changed so many aspects of our lives and we have had no option but to change with them. And change is tough. Very tough. It can take a physical toll, but it certainly has taken a toll on our mental health. We are committed to improving access to existing mental health supports and services and, when necessary, developing new options to fill gaps.

Virtual health care services and technology platforms have exploded over the past nine months. We are now being forced to rethink our VIP4SCI model as we have been rapidly caught and surpassed by the huge investments in other platforms.  This is not a bad thing. We have learned a lot about the pros and cons of virtual health and now have an opportunity to better support our community access what is now available from others – and that includes improving access to hardware such as lap-tops and tablets, as well as the essential high-speed, large bandwidth internet access, without which there is no virtual health care!

We have a proud history of achieving positive change for our community by advocating with government for legislative, policy and practice changes. We still have a huge amount to do and we need to accelerate the process for developing proposals, advocating and implementing change. We cannot achieve what our community is asking of us unless we enhance our capacity for advocacy.

You will see more from us in all three of these areas over the coming months.

With the continued sacrifices we are making for one another and now, the availability of vaccines, there is light at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel. It undoubtedly will not be easy over the next months but, together, we will get through this – that is our Honest Optimism. Stay safe everyone.

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