Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon 2018

Newcomers and Family Team Cheering Station

Thank you to the 50 people who braved the cold and to support the runners with cheer sticks, posters, whistles, noise makers, drums and pom poms! We are proud to share that we came in as one of the top cheering stations.

Coxwell & Lakeshore Boulevard
Supporting the Scotiabank Marathon runners
Cheering Squad
Joy of Dance troupe

Overdose Awareness Day

Riverdale health workers promote need for overdose prevention sites

‘The crisis touches everybody,’ says program co-ordinator at keepSIX consumption site

NEWS 06:00 AM BY BAMBANG SADEWO   TORONTO.COM

 

International Overdose Awareness Day

Harm reduction outreach worker Tave Cole (left) demonstrates how to properly administer naloxone during International Overdose Awareness Day at the South Riverdale Community Health Centre. – Justin Greaves/Metroland

International Overdose Awareness Day

Natalie Kallio is the program co-ordinator with keepSIX supervised consumption services at South Riverdale Community Health Centre. – Justin Greaves/Metroland

International Overdose Awareness Day

Outreach workers at a supervised drug consumption site in south Riverdale demonstrate how to use a naloxone kit. – Justin Greaves/Metroland

To mark International Overdose Awareness Day on Aug. 31, the South Riverdale Community Health Centre (SRCHC) held an event to raise people’s awareness about the opioid crisis, celebrate volunteers and grieve the lives lost.

“The crisis touches everybody. And as it goes, it’s going to affect more and more people,” said Natalie Kallio, program co-ordinator with keepSIX supervised consumption site at SRCHC.

The Government of Canada website states that there were 3,987 apparent opioid-related deaths in 2017, of which 1,125 cases were recorded in Ontario.

Tave Cole, a harm reduction outreach worker at the facility, said the number was “staggering.” It’s completely preventable if people have access to safe spaces and if there is less stigma attached to drug use, she said. Given that 92 per cent of the deaths were accidental, knowing how to use naloxone kits — nasal sprays and injectables — can prevent opiate overdose and help save lives, she said. At the event, Cole gave a demonstration on how to use the kits with the help of a dummy, as well as handing the kits out.

Becks Dudlay came to the event to show her support. Dudlay, who is originally from Alberta and is clean now, said overdose doesn’t just happen to drug addicts. “It has nothing to do with addiction. It has to do with people getting bad drugs on the weekend. All it takes is one bad batch and your life can be over,” she said, adding that she carries a naloxone kit everywhere with her.

Another attendee, Cameron, who did not want to share his last name, said it’s the community’s responsibility to “make sure that everyone stays alive” and “get past the shame and stigma.” “That’s what kills people more than anything,” he said.

The naloxone kit training is part of SRCHC’s efforts to reach out to community members and enlist their help. Other activities include regular needle patrols.

The keepSIX supervised consumption site opened in the Leslieville neighbourhood back in November of last year, while the COUNTERfit Harm Reduction Program has been around for 20 years. According to Kallio, the facility connects people who use drugs to other health and social services, makes sure that they have safe supplies to use, and that all of their supplies are disposed of safely. She added that they also provide referrals to detox or treatment centres, and try to help those who require housing. Keeping supervised consumption and overdose prevention sites open is essential.

“(Dealing with) discarded needles … we can work together to address. But preventing death is a pretty important thing for every community. That will be our priority and hopefully we’ll be able to continue operating as we do,” she said.

Bambang Sadewo

by Bambang Sadewo

Bambang Sadewo is a reporter with Toronto.com.

Email: bsadewo@toronto.com Facebook Twitter

 

 

We are going fully electronic!

BEING FULLY ELECTRONIC MEANS:

  • There are NO paper charts for clients. All your information – clinical notes, referrals, correspondence and other documents are scanned and stored in your Electronic Client Record (ECR).
  • We will use a standardized process for booking appointments, checking you in when you arrive for an appointment etc.

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR YOU?:

May 17-23 we will transition to our new electronic client record software.

During this time :

  • We will be able to book same day appointments
  • We will ask you to call back if you want to book appointments for later in May/June

For the first couple of weeks after we  start using the new ECR:

  • You may have longer wait times for routine appointments.
  • We will have more same day appointments available during this time.
  • The new ECR – PS Suite should be up & running by Wednesday May 23, 2018

If you have questions please do not hesitate to speak to any of the medical reception staff on the 2nd floor.

 

SRCHC now able to offer rapid Hep C diagnostic testing

South Riverdale CHC gets new hepatitis C testing and treatment program

Pilot aims to cure the deadly liver disease among injection drug users

NEWS APR 26, 2018 BY BAMBANG SADEWO   TORONTO.COM

Hepatitis C screening

KeepSix volunteer Francois C. (left) and infectious disease specialist Dr. Jeff Powis talk about the new Hepatitis C screening and testing program at the South Riverdale Community Health Centre on Wednesday, April 18. – Bambang Sadewo/Metroland

A Leslieville supervised injection site volunteer who struggled in the past to get an effective hepatitis C treatment is hopeful that an upcoming program will help tackle the issue.

Opting not to reveal his last name, Francois said he had been “living under the bridge” and “injecting drugs” when he was diagnosed with the potentially deadly disease, only to suffer further from side effects of medications that ultimately didn’t work.

“It was like the worst flu you’ll get,” said Francois, illustrating how he felt every time he went for his weekly injection.

That was until the South Riverdale Community Health Centre, which houses the supervised injection site known as KeepSix, offered newer, more effective treatment.

Cured from the liver disease, the 42-year-old wants to see more people getting access to hepatitis C treatment without all the hassles.

The prevalence of hepatitis C in the group of people who use drugs is quite high, according to Dr. Jeff Powis, a Toronto infectious disease specialist who’s at the helm of a new “one-stop shop” hepatitis C virus (HCV) program in South Riverdale CHC that aims to diagnose and treat hepatitis C among injection drug users.

“We wanted to build a mechanism whereby we link people who are using the supervised injection service to hepatitis C testing and treatment,” Powis said. “One of the unique things about KeepSix is it is co-located with a health facility …. The treatment nurses and the peer support workers can actually come down and integrate service with the person who is using KeepSix.”

Powis said the new machine allows them to “use a finger prick to draw blood” and the result can be out in “about 90 minutes.” This will reduce the long wait time between those getting tested and receiving their results.

The Leslieville health facility is just one of two in Ontario which has been given “a micro-elimination grant” by Gilead Sciences Canada to “develop new models of HCV screening and care among high-risk populations.”

The one-year study, which will begin next month, is targeting hepatitis C testing for 70 per cent of injection drug users; providing curative therapies for 80 per cent of those diagnosed; and reducing new infections by 90 per cent.

“Catching people earlier in the early stage of the disease and treating them … that’s what this is all about,” Powis said. “It’s knowing that everybody who goes to these doors knows their hepatitis C status and linking them to somebody who can treat it.”

Getting rid of the disease motivated Francois to get his life back on track. He has not injected drugs for about two years, now works part-time and has his own place.

He hopes the pilot program will help reduce the stigma that others still face.

“People (in the community) feel ashamed they got hepatitis C. Some of them won’t go ask for help,” said Francois, making a point that keeping the screening and treatment process in one facility will encourage more participation from KeepSix users.

Link to article below:

https://www.toronto.com/news-story/8564798-south-riverdale-chc-gets-new-hepatitis-c-testing-and-treatment-program/

 

Transformative Change Awards 2017: South Riverdale CHC, Sandy Hill CHC, and Parkdale Queen West CHC share honours for Supervised Injection Services

Lynne Raskin, CEO of South Riverdale Community Health Centre, speaks after accepting a Transformative Change Award for the centre's role in achieving government approval for Supervised Injection Services.
Lynne Raskin, CEO of South Riverdale Community Health Centre, speaks after accepting a Transformative Change Award for the centre’s role in achieving government approval for Supervised Injection Services.

The Transformative Change Award recognizes leaders, innovators, collaborators and health champions who have been working at the forefront of transformative change helping us achieve our vision of the best possible health and wellbeing for everyone living in Ontario. On June 7, Parkdale Queen West Community Health Centre, Sandy Hill Community Health Centre, and South Riverdale Community Health Centre were recognized for their work in expanding harm reduction programs to included Supervised Injection Services.

For the past five years, Parkdale Queen West CHC(link is external), Sandy Hill CHC(link is external) and South Riverdale CHC(link is external) have worked to expand their longstanding harm reduction programs by adding Supervised Injection Services (SIS). Their years of hard work included collecting and presenting evidence, building partnerships, engaging communities, developing policies, preparing submissions to both the federal and provincial governments, and working with the media. Now, all three CHCs are on the cusp of getting (or have just received) government approval and funding to set up the first SIS in Ontario.

These services will undeniably save lives and help reduce risk factors that lead to infectious diseases. The fact that SIS will be located in Community Health Centres means more people who use injection drugs will have access to other much needed health and social supports. The impact of the work done by these three CHCs is already significant. Their efforts have helped shift the conversation around substance use and mental health, and enhanced the engagement in many communities towards transforming the landscape of harm reduction, drug policy and evidence-based practices.

This article was originally posted on the Association of Ontario Health Centres

Safe-injection site approved in Leslieville

Health Canada also gives go ahead to new IV injection locations in Queen West, Yonge-Dundas area

The South Riverdale Community Health Centre is one of three sites in Toronto that will soon be offering supervised injection services. - SRCHC/Photo
The South Riverdale Community Health Centre is one of three sites in Toronto that will soon be offering supervised injection services. – SRCHC/Photo

Leslieville will soon be home to a safe-injection site for IV drug users.

On June 2, the department responsible for Canada’s public health approved the creation of three safe injection services programs (SIS) in Toronto: one at the South Riverdale Community Health Centre (SRCHC) on Queen Street East near Carlaw Avenue; another at the Parkdale Queen West Community Health Centre (PQWCHC) – Queen West site on Bathurst Street, just south of Queen Street West; and the third at the Works at Toronto Public Health’s building on Victoria Street, near Yonge-Dundas Square.

Health Canada formally approved three applications for exemption to the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, paving the way for the three organizations to expand their existing harm reduction programs.

“This is great news in the wave of the drug overdoses we are seeing in our communities and across the country,” said Lynne Raskin, SRCHC’s executive director, in an email sent earlier this week to partners and supporters.

“It is also a victory for drug user communities, harm reduction advocates and all who have worked for this service as an evidence-informed public policy response to a public health and human rights issue.”

Raskin credited those who supported the east Toronto centre’s bid to bring the expanded harm reduction service to the community.

“Thanks for your supportive deputations, letters and general encouragement over the past many years to make SIS a reality for our clients, for people who use drugs everywhere and in memory of those whose lives have been needlessly lost in the needless war on drugs,” she wrote.

In a joint press release, the two community health centres called the news an “important next step” in their ability to expand their harm reduction programming and one that will help to address the current overdose epidemic in Ontario.

According to national statistics, an estimated 2,300 people died from an overdose in 2016. In Ontario, that amounts to at least two deaths each day.

Jason Altenberg, SRCHC’s program director, said his organization’s ability to offer SIS is one more step in the journey, one small part of a response to the current overdose crisis and an acknowledgement the war on drugs must end.

Angela Robertson, PQWCHC’s executive director, agreed and said the news is an important achievement for harm reduction advocates as well as a “life-saving addition” to her organization’s harm reduction services.

The plan is to get the three new SIS programs off the ground by the end of the year.

Aside from offering small-scale supervised injection services, clients of Toronto’s three new SIS sites will be provided with sterile injection supplies, education on overdose prevention and intervention, health counselling services and referrals to drug treatment, housing, income support and other services.

In a joint release, Toronto Mayor John Tory and Ontario Health Minister Dr. Eric Hoskins said they’re pleased the federal government has approved the establishment of Toronto’s SIS sites.

Tory said the announcement shows all three levels of government are partnering to keep Torontonians safe and healthy by providing people with greater access to treatment, and combating illicit and illegal drug use in Toronto.

“The steadily increasing number of lives lost due to drug overdoses is a human tragedy and cannot be acceptable to anyone in a caring city such as ours,” he said in a June 2 release.

“Supervised injection services have been effective in other communities in preventing death, illicit drug use and in reducing health risks, but in accepting their initiation in Toronto, we must recognize they are only one part of the solution.”

Calling any loss of life to opioids a “needless, preventable” tragedy, Hoskins said his government “remains committed to harm reduction as part of a key comprehensive provincial strategy to prevent people from becoming dependent on opioids and support those who are affected by opioid use disorder.”

Late last week, the Ontario government announced it would be invest $3.5 million to install and operate three supervised injection sites in Toronto.

Last July, Toronto city council unanimously supported the SIS sites, which are the first in Canada since Vancouver’s Insite was established in 2003.

-with files from Torstar News

This article was originally posted on InsideToronto

Toronto gets its first supervised drug consumption sites — three of them

A prescription heroin user receives his sterile, pre-measured dose of heroin for using in the injection room at Crosstown Clinic in Vancouver.
A prescription heroin user receives his sterile, pre-measured dose of heroin for using in the injection room at Crosstown Clinic in Vancouver.

Health Canada approved three supervised drug consumption sites on Friday in Toronto — marking the first time the county’s most populous city will be allowed to provide the harm reduction service.

These approvals come one week after the department approved four other sites: three in British Columbia and one in Montreal for a mobile site.

Before last week, the only federally sanctioned supervised consumption sites in North America were located in Vancouver, due to the fact that a cumbersome and restrictive application process made it nearly impossible for communities to get the necessary approvals.

But a new piece of federal legislation implemented in May, Bill C-37, has eased those restrictions, making the process a whole lot easier amid an opioid overdose crisis that has claimed thousands of lives in recent years. Health Minister Jane Philpott has estimated that 2016 saw around 2,300 overdose deaths in Canada. Philpott has been pursuing a suite of progressive drug policies to help address the ongoing crisis that has swiftly moved from BC to the Maritimes.

Though Philpott has rejected decriminalizing illicit drugs, citing a lack of evidence, she has made the opioid overdose antidote naloxone more readily available, and introduced measures to allow communities to import prescription heroin in bulk as a treatment for those with chronic opioid addictions.

“International and Canadian evidence demonstrates that, when properly established and maintained, supervised consumption sites save lives without increasing drug use or crime in the surrounding area,” Philpott said in a news release. “They decrease infections and the transmission of communicable disease, and can also decrease the use of emergency departments, as well as hospital admissions related to injection drug use.”

For Jason Altenberg, director of services at the South Riverdale Community Health Centre, which will open one of the three sites, this represents a huge milestone for the city that’s seen rising overdose rates over the last decade.

“It’s an acknowledgement that we need to approach this crisis from a health and human rights standpoint and we need to create more spaces that are decriminalized,” said Altenberg. “It’s a tragedy that so many people have been lost already. This is one piece of the puzzle that has to be solved through bigger policy decisions, but it is an important part of the solution.”

He said he hopes the proliferation of the sites across the country will prompt serious discussions about the decriminalization, and ultimately regulation, of illicit drugs in the future.

Toronto City Councillor Joe Cressy, who has been at the forefront of the city’s effort to get the sites approved, previously told CBC drug users who use the service will be supervised by nurses, and access to other treatments will be available if they choose.

“That’s part of an integrated healthcare approach to drug use that is desperately needed in this country and city,” he said.

There are now 12 federally approved safe consumption sites in Canada, and at least a dozen other applications for sites from other cities are currently in the queue.

This article was originally posted on VICE

Justin Trudeau Talked Weed Legalization With VICE Canada

The prime minister was in our Toronto office Monday night to face a number of questions.
The prime minister was in our Toronto office Monday night to face a number of questions.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was at VICE Canada’s Toronto office to discuss the government’s weed legalization bill at an exclusive live event Monday evening.

Earlier in the month, the federal government dropped the Cannabis Act, a bill that lays out how the legal weed regime will operate in Canada. When the bill becomes law sometime next year, Canada will become the second country to have legalized and regulated marijuana.

VICE talks weed with Justin Trudeau

The bill proposes Canadians be allowed to carry up to 30 grams of weed and grow a maximum of four plants per household; it also recommends a legal age of 18 to purchase weed. Provinces will determine how to set up the retail markets for buying and selling weed.

However, the legislation is also recommending harsh penalties for going outside the legal system, including up to 14 years of jail time for selling weed to minors, and producing/selling illegally.

On Monday evening, Trudeau and MP Bill Blair, who has been the Liberals’ pointman on this file, were questioned about the new legislation at a live event. They also took questions from guests who will be directly impacted by the new laws.

The event was hosted by VICE’s Manisha Krishnan.

This article was originally posted on VICE

Meet the Harm Reduction Worker Who Called Out Trudeau on the Opioid Crisis

Justin Trudeau meets Zoe Dodd

“It’s a national disaster, you are not doing enough. The bodies keep mounting.”

Last night at VICE Canada’s talk with Justin Trudeau about the upcoming cannabis legalization and regulation system slated for 2018, a harm reduction worker on our panel named Zoë Dodd grilled the prime minister. But it wasn’t about weed—it was about the opioid overdose crisis that has brought immense loss to thousands of Canadians and continues to take multiple lives daily.

If you didn’t catch the intense interaction between Dodd and Trudeau, you can watch part of it below (and watch the entire interview here):

Dodd is a frontline harm reduction and support worker who is based at the South Riverdale Community Health Centre and coordinates the Hepatitis C program in Toronto, among a slew of other responsibilities and commitments in her field.

“So many people I work with or who work on the frontline have been messaging me and saying that they cried,” Dodd told me today about the response she’s received.

VICE reached out to interview Dodd today about her work and how it felt to be able to confront the prime minister. As she mentioned during the talk with Trudeau, she lost five friends and 30 people she worked with this past year.

VICE: How did it feel to confront the prime minister about issues that have affected you so much?
Zoë Dodd: It felt therapeutic, honestly, to be able to speak directly to him. A lot of us on the frontlines don’t have seats at the table in the overdose action plan. There’s a lot of doctors, researchers; yet people like myself who are in it day to day and have experience, who are experts as well and have really good, sound advice to give, we are not at the table. It felt good to be able to say directly to him what they need to do because they’re not doing enough. I can’t handle the lack of response from all of government.

I work in health care. So when SARS happened, they created networks, they had all these meetings. They didn’t go to the public and say, “We found the solution for stopping SARS is handwashing—let’s hold public consultation for the next 15 days to see how the public feels about handwashing.” But with anything to do with drug users, we have to go through all these things, even in an emergency, to get advice from the public. It slows it down. They got a handle on SARS really quickly; only 44 people died.

It makes me so mad because this is about drug users. It’s not just about people who use drugs though—the majority of the people in Vancouver, the proportion is Aboriginal people, homeless people, people who are poor. These are not people the government cares about. It’s their policies, it’s not even just the war on drugs or about drugs—colonization, lack of housing, lack of employment, poverty—that’s created this crisis. It felt good to tell him off. I don’t think too many people speak to the prime minister that way. He is very slick, and people are afraid, especially around funding. But people I love are dead, and I’m pretty pissed off and deeply saddened.

What death has hit you the hardest out of all of those you’ve gone through?
There’s been so many. It’s hard not to cry about it. Losing friends is a deep pain. Losing one person is very painful, but losing many people, you don’t even get time to heal. I haven’t had any time really to grieve. The last death that really impacted me was my mentor and coworker of the last 13 years, Raffi Balian. I worked side by side with him, and he really got me into this work and was my confidante, and was willing to take risks as well. He went out to a supervised safe injection site meeting in Vancouver to present and overdosed and died the night before the meeting. He was a long-time drug user, fully experienced. I think what was so traumatizing about the loss of him was I was on the phone with people at the meeting trying to track him and my boss down because they were supposed to be presenting. Then, after finding out he died, I had to contact our friends we did international work with—who he did work with for 20 years—to let them know he was dead, and call up his ex-partner who’d he’d been with for 14 years to track her down and let her know.

Losing him has left a huge gulf, not only at my work where he created the harm reduction program, but also just deep inside me. I’m really sad still. He was our second coworker to die from the centre. We lost a coworker the same day we put in our application for the supervised injection service—we were having a party at the centre to celebrate, and we found out our coworker, who was an amazing advocate and all-around good human being, took his life. I thought then that we couldn’t be living in any more hell, but then losing Raffi, it was like this is the ultimate hell.

How did you get into your line of work in the first place?
I was in an unhealthy relationship, really depressed, and feeling like I could be doing more with my life. I was playing in bands and working at a record store at the time, which was super good. I loved that part of my life, but I felt like I could be doing more in service and community-based. So I went to school to George Brown College for a year, and I got a placement at Street Health, and I really had to push for them to take me as a student there… I really wanted to work with drug users because I also had the experience of using drugs. I think some of the best kind of harm reduction is done when it’s people with that experience talking to each other without judgment.

I started there as a student, then became an HIV-AIDS outreach worker. I got interested in supporting people who use crack, advocacy around crack users. I got involved with The Safer Crack Use Coalition… I was very interested in Hep C because drug users were being turned away from accessing treatment for Hepatitis C. It was there I started a program for people living with Hepatitis C who use drugs, which I coordinate today. That’s been modeled across the province a number of times now, but it started in the basement as a group. Now, it’s looked at nationally as a model. I’ve been so passionate because my friends use drugs, people I care about do.

Zoe Dodd speaks and asks Justin Trudeau questions

What did you think about Trudeau’s response, and later, Bill Blair’s?
The police make a lot of money off the drug war. It keeps them in their jobs, the laws help keep them employed, it keeps their budgets bulk. I don’t expect someone who is the ex-Chief of Police of Toronto to agree with me… I mean, god, if we decriminalized drugs, it would be putting a lot of these people out of jobs who Bill Blair wouldn’t want to see without a job. So his response did not surprise me.

The prime minister saying “I’m not there yet,” I was glad he said it. I think people need to know where he actually stands because he doesn’t quite ever get to the point. He’s a very rehearsed person, and he’s well-coached. I didn’t appreciate how smug he looked and that he was smiling while I was talking about something like the deaths of people in this country. That looked like a real lack of heart and a lack of sincerity on his part.

I actually think the [new] cannabis laws are really criminalizing and are something people should be really concerned about as well. They’re not good laws. It’s also the corporations getting the cut; it’s going to be their buddies who get access. The young man Malik’s question, that stuck with me the most when I was thinking last night about it… The prime minister’s response to him was not only so racist, but it was also really glaring when he was saying that it was unfair, yet his brother had access to people and could get off these charges. There’s so much economic inequality to this, and you’re just saying it’s unfairness to this young man? Your family could get off, but this young man might not get off because he’s a young man of colour, and they’re the most impacted by the drug war? That answer to him more than what he said to me upset me the most… Everyone should be getting amnesty, including that young man.

Where do you stand on the decriminalization vs. legalization and regulation of non-cannabis drugs in Canada?
I feel very complicated about it because seeing how legalization is happening with cannabis, in the system we have now, I think that the government is interested in a kind of monopoly on that business. Rich, white men are going to get access and be able to have businesses—not the people who’ve been taking the risks and selling cannabis across the country. For me, legalization [of other drugs] in the same system, I am concerned about how that would roll out with this kind of government and what access would look like. He was saying last night that there wouldn’t be a black market, but actually there would be. If you are just selling weed 9-5 and the shops are sporadic, I would just call my weed dealer because they’ll bring it to me.

Right now, I think the best thing the government could do would be to move to decriminalization. To allow people to have quantities of drugs on them so that people could buy and purchase their drugs more safely, then move to legalization and regulation and taxation… Technically, there’s steps toward the legalization of prescription heroin, so if they look at what they’re doing there. I’m in favour of ending the war; I’m in favour of looking at other models. I think they need to talk to those who are using drugs about what they think would work.

What kind of resources do you need on the frontlines right now that you aren’t seeing?
There have been no increased resources for overdose prevention, so there should be those kind of programs in every city and town. There should be workers who can do education and workshops and have access to naloxone in bulk. Harm reduction, the government does a good talk about how they support it, but it hasn’t had an increase in funding. It hasn’t had the resources it needs. Also, this government just cut funding to AIDS and Hepatitis C organizations, which do a lot of harm reduction work and engaging with drug users… That funding needs to come back, and it actually needs its own influx of funding.

He talked about the PTSD of workers, but what they talk about often are paramedics, police, firefighters. They don’t actually have relationships like we do to people we work with. There’s nothing for folks on the frontlines. When I went off of work, I was completely traumatized and messed up, and feeling really sad. I thought about phoning the veterans’ hotline because I was thinking they might understand what it’s like to deal with trauma every day and still have to go back to your job… That’s happening in Vancouver. People are just burning out because they’re witnessing things with limited resources. There needs to be money for the well-being of workers. We also just need action, and that will help the workers feel better.

What did Trudeau say to you at the end of the event?
He just explained that he understood how I am feeling. I said, “No, you don’t.” I said publicly that I lost five friends in the last year, but that doesn’t include the friends I lost the year before, it doesn’t include the friends I’ve lost in my lifetime, it doesn’t include the people my friends have lost… He couldn’t feel that pain. He has no idea. I asked him about the exemptions, and I just kept saying that he isn’t doing enough and this is a national crisis. He admitted to and said that it is a national crisis and that they weren’t doing enough. For me, I was glad to hear him say it because he needs to say that publicly, that this is a national crisis, a public health emergency. He needs to declare it as such. Those resources aren’t just for frontlines, they’re for funding across the country to have proper data surveillance so we know how many people are actually dying—which we don’t know, because there is no coordinated effort. I don’t want apologies.

Yesterday when I was speaking to the prime minister, I was really thinking about all the frontline workers I know who are really struggling, all of the people I know who are grieving and impacted by loss. I was also thinking about myself: There’s no words to explain what it’s been like. At first, I used to describe it as witnessing drowning, slow death. Now, at times, I just feel like I’m witnessing murder. It’s incredibly traumatizing just knowing there are real solutions that could be enacted to save lives, but because of the people who are dying—they’re not rich and middle-class, they don’t go to the polls—to me, it feels like genocide. When there is no action, that is how it feels.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

This article was originally posted on VICE