Chambers Plan and Arete Partner to Address Isolation and Loneliness with New Hugr App


Chambers of Commerce Group Insurance Plan® (Chambers Plan) is excited to partner with Arete to bring more than 200,000 individuals access to a leading-edge mental wellness app that’s designed to help people feel connected.*

Hugr Authentic Connections offers users a personalized journey to help them measure feelings of connection, discover how to build and maintain authentic connections and regularly share how they’re feeling with those closest to them.

Loneliness and social isolation are serious health issues affecting many Canadians. One year ago, at the beginning of the pandemic, over 50% of Canadians reported experiencing social isolation and loneliness (Ipsos, 2020). As Canadians have become even more isolated, many are voicing concerns about how it is affecting their mental health. In 2020, almost half (47%) of Canadians reported their mental health as only fair, poor or very poor—a significant increase compared to the 30% who rated themselves this way in 2019. (Angus Reid Institute, 2020).

“Ensuring our members have access to quality mental health supports as part of a holistic health benefits program has always been a primary driver for us,” said Dave Angus, President of Johnston Group, the administrator of Chambers Plan. “We knew our members were feeling isolated and we were hearing stories about the immense impact it was having on their lives at home and at work. We needed to find a tool that could help.”

Different than other mental health apps, Hugr Authentic Connections, addresses the significant risks (Holt-Lunstad et al., 2010) that growing social isolation and loneliness have on our mental and physical health. Consultations with Arete (Chambers Plan’s assistance program partner) about this issue led to conversations with the Hugr team.

“We saw Hugr as a unique, evidence-based product that could fill the gap we were seeing in the digital mental health market,” said Allan Stordy, CEO at Arete. “It’s a compelling concept that addresses a major public health issue and we were thrilled to get Chambers Plan set up as an early adopter.”

Working with Dr. Bill Howatt—a renowned Canadian workplace mental health expert, researcher and author—the Hugr team set out to apply their lived experience to an established body of global research and evidence about the effects of social isolation and loneliness on mental health.

“This is the outcome of lived experience and a trying time for our small business,” said Daren McLean, co-founder of Hugr. “We wanted to use what we learned in order to help others, and we’re so proud to be able to do this through Hugr Authentic Connections.”

“In the process of writing my latest book, The Cure for Loneliness, I began to uncover the importance of social connections to our mental well-being,” said Dr. Bill Howatt, President and Founder of Howatt HR Consulting. “I think Hugr Authentic Connections is a perfect fusion of evidence-based supports and tools that helps individuals move away from isolation and loneliness and build authentic connections.”

Chambers Plan members and their dependents will enjoy premium features within their version of the Hugr Authentic Connections app. A free version of the app is also available to individuals through the App Store or Google Play.


About Chambers of Commerce Group Insurance Plan. Chambers of Commerce Group Insurance Plan has been protecting more than 30,000 small to midsize Canadian businesses and their employees with comprehensive group benefits for more than 50 years.

About Arete. Arete builds resilience within people and the organizations that support them through its excellent Canadian employee, member and business assistance programs.

About Hugr. Hugr Authentic Connections is a mental wellness app designed to help people feel connected.



Chambers of Commerce Group Insurance Plan: Dave Angus | | 204-774-6677

Arete: Gillian Woroniuk | | 780-818-6805

Hugr: Daren McLean | | 306-717-5713


*This release was distributed by Chambers of Commerce Group Insurance Plan on April 6, 2021.

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