How One Person Helps Others to Navigate the Path to Recovery


“Who is…” is a new StoryLine series that features and celebrates the many employees, physicians, volunteers and others who make up Eastern Health.  These are the individuals who are part of the fabric of our organization and who contribute to making a difference in the community and to health care every day. We hope that you, our readers, enjoy learning about Eastern Health – who we are, what we do, and how and why we do it – as much as we enjoy telling you!

Who is… Barry Hewitt, provincial systems navigator for mental health and addictions at Eastern Health?

Barry Hewitt, provincial systems navigator for mental health and addictions at Eastern Health

Barry Hewitt, provincial systems navigator for mental health and addictions at Eastern Health

Where are you from?
I was born and raised in Gander, but the Hewitt side of my family was from Fogo Island so I spent parts of my summers there.

Why were you interested in a career in health care?
I was interested in working and helping people in many different capacities. After years of working in various social work fields, such as youth corrections, child welfare and as a social worker on the coast of Labrador, I slowly migrated toward health. I developed, and still have a passion for working with people with mental health and addictions.

How do you help patients get the care they need?
Many times, patients don’t know what services or resources are available, or what they might need in the first place. Usually through conversation, I will ask a list of questions to best determine the types of appropriate programs that a patient can avail of. I explain the process to access each of the programs and help to guide the patient through the process. This way the person receives the appropriate service based upon their needs.

“I help people who are very emotionally vulnerable and confused to find the right treatment path for them.”

What does your day-to-day work look like?
I provide information and help patients and clients navigate the mental health and addictions system. I am often asked to do presentations for various stakeholders and I am consulted quite often by other health-care professionals.

People usually don’t know what they need, or where to find it, until they or their family are in a crisis. Every time I pick up the phone, I am being invited to help someone access a service that may change their lives in a positive way.   And, every day I speak to individuals or family members who are distraught, anxious, worried and usually overwhelmed and not sure where to start. I help to guide individuals through potential options (who, what, where, when). I also provide support to family members and loved ones and their needs; and, I help other health-care providers find resources or treatment for their clients or patients.

So, to sum it up, I help individuals, who may be feeling emotionally overwhelmed or mentally unwell, find a clear path to help and recovery.

“I provide information, support and instill hope that recovery can happen.”

Barry in his office at the Health Sciences Centre, Eastern Health

Barry in his office at the Health Sciences Centre, Eastern Health

How long have you been in your current role?
I have been the mental health and addictions systems navigator for the past three years. This was a new position, so I have had the opportunity to develop the role.

The systems navigator role was created to personalize a person’s experience in finding help. It was a recommendation of the Provincial Government All Party Committee who spent two years examining mental health and addictions across the province.

Looking back, this role has in many ways surpassed what it was first envisioned to do. I was given the freedom to help people who called no matter what the issue. The role has developed to respond to the needs of the individuals who reach out. I have helped people navigate the mental health and addictions system with the intention to make their recovery journey seamless. Where appropriate, although I am not involved in clinical decisions, I have branched out to help people with mental health and addictions issues to navigate other systems, such as housing, financial assistance, employment, corrections, etc.

Having been a social worker in all the different regions of the province, receiving a specialized masters-level degree in mental health and addictions, and having an intimate working knowledge of the majority of the mental health and addictions programs in Eastern Health, brought a unique perspective to my role.

What do you like most about your job?
I love connecting with and helping people. I help people who are very emotionally vulnerable and confused to find the right treatment path for them. I also let them know that should they fall off the path or get lost, they are always welcome to come back to me.  It makes me feel good that I can take the time to help clients receive the right treatment when they need it.

What makes you proud about the work you do at Eastern Health?
Over my years at Eastern Health, I have worked closely with many of the front-line staff and managers within the Mental Health and Addictions Program. I feel confident that the clients and patients I refer to our programs are receiving top-notch treatment from some of the most caring, skilled workers anywhere. I feel better knowing I am directing clients to programs that will work hard to support their recovery.

In your opinion, what is the best way to improve mental health?
I am big into mindfulness and how choosing your attitude can influence mental health.  However, on the most basic level, it has been shown that proper sleep, regular exercise and healthy eating will improve and elevate mood.  Lastly, at Eastern Health, most people are care providers so we practice self-care.

For those who may be experiencing symptoms of a mental illness, it is important for them to reach out to their doctor or a mental health professional and discuss available options to help them address it. There are a wide variety of mental health and addictions services available throughout the province that can assist, and my role is to help people navigate the system.

If you could have lunch with one person, who would it be?
I am not big into “celebrities” as I truly believe at the end of the day everyone is equal. Therefore, I would love to have a meal with anyone who would appreciate a good meal, share a laugh and enjoy telling a story or two!

“We all have interesting stories and experiences that are uniquely ours, sometimes all it takes is a person willing to listen to them to make them meaningful.”

If you weren’t a mental health and addictions systems navigator, what would you be?
As long as I am working with people and helping to enrich the lives of others, I could be doing anything!

How can people learn more about mental health and addictions programs at Eastern Health, or get in touch with you?
People can learn more about mental health and addictions services through our website at http://www.easternhealth.ca/MHA, or through https://www.bridgethegapp.ca/.

Bridge the gapp lists mental health and addictions resources for the province broken down by region. People can also find valuable online self-help tools.

And, I encourage people to contact me.  People can find out how to reach me on our Eastern Health website, the provincial government website, or can contact me directly by telephone at: (709) 752-3916 or toll-free at 1-877-999-7589; video relay service (VRS) calls are welcome; or email at: barry.hewitt@easternhealth.ca. ■

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