New Study Published: Police presence near supervised consumption sites in Toronto discouraging access, June 10, 2019

For Immediate Release
June 10, 2019
BC Centre on Substance Use

Police presence near supervised consumption sites in Toronto discouraging access

Supervised consumption sites are being expanded across Canada in response to opioid overdoses and other harms related to drug use. However, recent research suggests that policing in Toronto may be a key barrier to accessing this life-saving health service.

Researchers with the University of British Columbia interviewed clients at two Toronto health sites providing supervised consumption services (SCS), Parkdale Queen West Community Health Centre and South Riverdale Community Health Centre. They found the presence of police produced anxieties and fears of arrest and harassment among clients. Findings were published in the peer-reviewed Harm Reduction Journal, the first to look at clients’ experiences with SCS in Toronto.

In addition, they found that policing practices were not applied consistently across both sites. In one neighbourhood, people who inject drugs were more likely to be profiled by police than in the other. In the neighbourhood with less police presence, clients reported feeling safer about using the services.

When asked about police presence, one participant said: “Oh, I wouldn’t even come in [to the SCS]. I would walk right past. I’m not in trouble for anything, but they’ll get ready to just stop you and talk to you for no reason. And nobody wants that.”

“It’s critical to understand how people’s experiences with police shape access to supervised consumption services,” says Geoff Bardwell, lead author of the study. “Many people who would benefit from these harm reduction programs have negative experiences with police as a result of the criminalization of drug use and poverty. As a result, the mere presence of police at a health service site may discourage them from accessing these services.”

At SCS, people are immune from arrest and criminalization related to their substance use. However, the findings point to a disconnect between the goals of policing and supervised consumption services. As a result, the study authors are recommending that police policies and practice be changed to ensure optimal access to SCS in Toronto.

“Since this study began, the dial has moved on police engagement locally and provincially and there is more opportunity now to create additional safe spaces for drug users and a stronger push for the availability of a regulated and safe supply. We know that this is a public health issue and not a criminal justice issue. The study definitely re-enforces the need for decriminalization more broadly,” said Jason Altenberg, Director of Programs and Services, South Riverdale Community Health Centre.

More than 10,000 Canadians died from opioid-related overdoses between January 2016 and September 2018. As part of the federal response, Health Canada has approved more than 40 supervised consumption sites across the country, including 10 in Toronto, identifying SCS as a critical part of a harm reduction approach to prevent overdoses and accessing treatment and social services.

The study authors recommend the establishment of a non-enforcement boundary outside of SCS in order to lessen the effects of criminalization that drive some people who use drugs away from accessing services. The findings are supported by recent recommendation from Toronto’s Medical Health Officer, who said the criminalization of people who use drugs “forces people
into unsafe drug use practices and creates barriers to seeking help.”

Implementation contexts and the impact of policing on access to supervised consumption services in Toronto, Canada: a qualitative comparative analysis

Contact:
Kevin Hollett, BC Centre on Substance Use
kevin.hollett@bccsu.ubc.ca
778-918-1537

East Toronto Health Partners to form Ontario Health Team for East Toronto

East Toronto Health Partners to form Ontario Health Team for East Toronto

South Riverdale Community Health Centre is proud to be part of the East Toronto Health Partners. The East Toronto Health Partners (ETHP), committed to work together to form an Ontario Health Team for East Toronto. The ETHP group which has come together as equal partner organizations includes: Providence Healthcare (Unity Health Toronto), VHA Home HealthCare, WoodGreen Community Services, South Riverdale Community Health Centre, Michael Garron Hospital, as well as primary care partners. On May 15, the ETHP submitted a self-assessment to express our interest in forming an Ontario Health Team for East Toronto.

Building an Ontario Health Team for East Toronto

As a member of the East Toronto Health Partners (ETHP), we are pleased to mark the next step in our journey to become an Ontario Health Team (OHT). On May 15, 2019, ETHP submitted a Self-Assessment for consideration to the Ontario Government to deliver integrated health care services to everyone living in our community, and any Ontarian who wishes to receive care in East Toronto.

Together, the ETHP provide a comprehensive basket of health and social services, tailored to meet changing local needs. We provide primary to acute care, food security to supportive housing, home-based healthcare and community support services, birth to end-of-life care, and settlement to employment. Our partnership is built on a legacy of trust in East Toronto, with a multi-decade track record of delivering ‘made in East Toronto’ solutions together with our partners for more than 20 years.

Together, we are:

  • Patients, Families and Caregivers
  • Michael Garron Hospital (Toronto East Health Network)
  • Providence Healthcare (Unity Health)
  • South Riverdale Community Health Centre (on behalf of East Toronto CHCs)
  • VHA Home HealthCare (VHA)
  • WoodGreen Community Services (WoodGreen)
  • Toronto Central Local Health Integration Network (LHIN) Home and Community Care
  • Primary care leadership committed to designing a Primary Care Network for East Toronto

At the centre of our model are the people we collectively serve; they were involved in the planning and design phases of this process, and are engaged as active members of the ETHP. As we evolve and expand our partnership model, we continue to follow a rigorous and inclusive engagement and co-design process to involve community members in East Toronto.

Our sincere gratitude and thanks to our partners that provided valuable insight and feedback in the early days of this process. This exciting and complex work takes a village and we look forward to continuing the conversation and working with all of our partners in the coming weeks and months to shape and design the future of health and community care in East Toronto.

Click here to read the East Toronto Health Partners’ Self-Assessment to become an Ontario Health Team

East Toronto Health Partners -Self-Assessment- May 15, 2019

Toronto.com: Earth Day celebrated in south Riverdale

Community health centre hosted fun activities for the environment

NEWS MAY 01, 2019 TORONTO.COM
EMMA:54238154

Staff at the South Riverdale Community Health Centre prepared and served a plant-based and vegetarian meal for the community during their Earth day event on April 25. – SRCHC photo

On Thursday, April 25, South Riverdale Community Health Centre welcomed a crowd of about 75 people to celebrate Earth Day with a community gathering and a delicious plant-based and vegetarian meal. Guests were serenaded by Aqua Nibii Waawaaskone, an Anishinaabe-kwe musician, who shared songs of her culture and traditions.

We also welcomed Toronto-Danforth representatives Coun. Paula Fletcher, MPP Peter Tabuns and MP Julie Dabrusin, who all stopped by to visit the celebration held outside in the sunshine in the courtyard between the Centre and Queen Street Presbyterian Church at Queen Street East and Carlaw Avenue.

Dozens of people from the community, clients, and neighbours browsed informative and interactive booths hosted by the centre’s programs — DECNET — diabetes health, Choose Health — self-management program, MATCH — Midwifery and Toronto Community Health, and the asthma program featuring demonstrations on pole-walking, balcony gardening and carbon monoxide breath tests.

Toronto Field Naturalists, Toronto Public Library and the City of Toronto waste management program featured interactive displays including turtle shells and hornets’ nests, books and library activities on bees and spiders, recycling quiz games, roulette wheels and mini-recycling bin prizes. Visitors peddled their way to smoothies on the blender bike and joined in a tai chi demonstration.

We also offered tours of our rooftop garden and hosted a nature walk reflecting on Indigenous history and our connection to the land and the Don River.

The South Riverdale Community Health Centre has a long legacy of advocating for the environment and environmental health, and believes in health equity for all in the community, protecting local species is important to ensure access to food security and healthy, stable ecosystems.

The centre’s mission is to improve the lives of people that face barriers to physical, mental, spiritual and social well-being. We do so by meaningfully engaging our clients and communities, ensuring equitable access to primary health care, and delivering quality care through a range of evidence informed programs, services and approaches.

NOW Magazine: Emotional demonstration marks National Day of Action on overdose deaths

Emotional demonstration marks National Day of Action on overdose deaths

The overdose crisis is our crisis

BY 

APRIL 23, 2019

Renovation Update

Over the past few months, two South Riverdale locations have been under renovation.

Since the “great flood” of January, 2019, our 955 Queen Street East location has been undergoing renovation to repair the affected floors, ceilings, walls and built-ins. We continue to monitor air quality and safe access to our spaces.

While groups and activities have been cancelled at this location, we are making efforts to accommodate programs and groups at other locations in the community. Our community partners have been extremely generous and very accommodating to ensure that our programming continues. And we very much appreciate our community’s patience while the renovations continue.

As well, our location at 2 Gower Street is expanding its kitchen area and renovating main floor bathrooms. In partnership with Community Food Centres Canada, we are building a welcoming community space — a Community Food Centre — where people can come together to grow, cook, share and advocate for good food.

Thank you to all of our clients for your patience during this challenging time. We look forward to seeing you at our renovated, cheerful and always welcoming spaces!

 

Remembering Chris: A Tribute to Chris Gort

In 1979, Chris Gort came to South Riverdale Community Health Centre in search of a family physician. Over a period of 20 years, he was a SRCHC member and served on the Board of Directors.

In an interview for SRCHC’s 40th Anniversary, Chris said, “When I ended my term as Board chair, I met with Lynne. She asked me for some parting advice. I suggested that the Centre should pick two things and become outstanding in those areas.  I bumped into her a few years later and she told me they had done this through the harm reduction program (COUNTERfit) and the diabetes program (DECNET). I’m proud of this place. I’m a member and patient here and I’ve always appreciated it. I am thankful that I’m getting good health care and I hope to remain a member and patient for many more years.”

Two years ago, Chris was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). It causes the death of neurons which control voluntary muscles, leading to physical deterioration and, ultimately, death. Over the past year, Chris wrote a blog about his situation, the pleasures of family and friends and his gratitude for all the small but important things he continued to enjoy, like the wind blowing the trees outside his window.

On March 24, 2019, some SRCHC staff members attended an event in his honour. Chris was also at this event, a testament to his long and close relationship with Elaine, his life partner and wife. She said that she wanted to share the event with him, not wait until he died to have a memorial without him. Elaine and Chris were lucky in so many ways to have had this time together, both sacred and challenging, and appreciated that others had not been so fortunate.

Chris continued to represent SRCHC at the Partners for Health table up until two years ago. I will always remember his wisdom, support and ability to navigate muddy waters. Most importantly, I will remember that he left us a set of principles by which we have continued to operate: to be thoughtful and bold, courageous and humble, reliable and accountable. Going at times where others fear to tread. One cannot build on a weak foundation; Chris played a key role in creating a strong foundation which we have continued to support and which is now written into our collective story.

On April 2, Chris passed away peacefully at home. We will forever remember his appreciation of small things, his compassion for others who have less and his contributions to the Centre. And we thank him.

Lynne Raskin, CEO

SRCHC Funded for Consumption Treatment Services at 955 Queen Street East and 134 Sherbourne Street.

Ontario’s Government announced funding for 15 Consumption and Treatment Services sites today.

News Release

Ontario Continuing to Build a Connected Mental Health and Addictions Treatment System

Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care

Ontario’s Government for the People is putting patients at the centre of our integrated health care system. As part of this commitment the Government of Ontario is ensuring those struggling with drug addiction can connect with full wrap-round supports for treatment and rehabilitation services, by approving 15 Consumption and Treatment Services sites in communities with high need and will continue to accept applications from interested organizations.

“Our government takes the opioids crisis very seriously,” said Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health and Long-Term Care. “That’s why we’ve created a new Consumption and Treatment Services model that will continue to save lives by preventing overdoses and connecting people to primary care, treatment, rehabilitation, and other health and social services to ensure those struggling with drug addiction get the help they need.”

To support building a comprehensive and connected mental health and addictions treatment system, Consumption and Treatment Services applications were reviewed against the program criteria, which includes:

  • Addressing local needs
  • Offering integrated wrap-around health and social services
  • Providing evidence of community support and demonstrating a commitment to ongoing community engagement
  • Considering proximity to other Consumption and Treatment Services as well as licensed child care centres, parks and schools
  • Meeting accessibility criteria and laws

“This announcement is part of our commitment to invest $3.8 billion over the next 10 years to finally develop and implement a comprehensive, connected and integrated mental health and addictions treatment strategy, centred around patients, family and caregivers,” said Elliott. “We will continue to make mental health and addictions a priority and work toward creating an Ontario where everyone is fully supported in their journey toward mental wellness.”

Background Information

Additional Resources

CBC News: Toronto Public Health strategy calls for culturally safe care, Indigenous-led consumption sites

‘When I’m around my people, I feel safe’: City aims to combat Indigenous overdoses amid opioid crisis

Harm reduction work ‘needs to be driven by our own community,’ says Les Harper, who is one of only a handful of Indigenous people working in the supervised consumption sphere in Toronto, despite huge rates of drug use among Indigenous residents. (Jon Castell/CBC News)

Catching up in the bustling lobby of an east-end Toronto clinic and supervised consumption site, Les Harper and Lawrence Boyer have lots to talk about — and lots in common.

Both men understand the complicated nature of drug use, from the pleasures to the potentially-deadly pains. Both have also lost loved ones to overdoses — roughly 30 friends for Boyer, and three brothers, one sister, and various cousins, aunts, and uncles for Harper.

And, like so many of those affected by addiction, both men are Indigenous.

But while Boyer is a client and two-time overdose survivor, Harper is on the other side.

Tall and soft-spoken, he is one of only a handful of Indigenous people working in Toronto’s harm reduction community, even though he estimates Indigenous community members make up at least half of all those seeking services, despite making up less than three per cent of the city’s population.

It’s a lopsided arrangement both men agree needs to change.

Harm reduction work “needs to be driven by our own community,” said Harper, a staff member at the supervised consumption site at South Riverdale Community Health Centre who is from the Saddle Lake Cree Nation northeast of Edmonton.

“I don’t know one Indigenous person it doesn’t affect,” he added. “That hasn’t had somebody pass away from an overdose.”

The city, it seems, is listening. Released this month, a new Indigenous overdose strategy, developed by an independent Indigenous contractor with input from the community and support from Toronto Public Health, stresses the need for Indigenous-led consumption and treatment spaces as a way to combat the stigma and isolation experienced by Indigenous people who use drugs.

NEW YORK, NY – OCTOBER 07: A heroin user prepares to shoot up on the street in a South Bronx neighborhood which has the highest rate of heroin-involved overdose deaths in the city on October 7, 2017 in New York City. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

The recommendations tie into the city’s broader overdose action plan to combat the opioid crisis, which has led to the deaths of at least 16 people in Toronto so far in 2019 and roughly 450 people over the previous two years.

The “desperately needed” strategy is also the first of its kind in Canada, according to city councillor and board of health chair Joe Cressy. He said it was more than a year in the making, and in that time, the city learned it can’t use “just a one-size-fits-all approach.”

Thanks to recommendations from Indigenous drug users, the strategy calls for Toronto Public Health to request federal and provincial funding support for Indigenous agencies, drop-in spaces, and safe consumption and treatment sites.

It also stresses the importance of weaving Indigenous elders, healing circles, and traditional medicines and teachings into the city’s health care system.

“Currently, the perception is that service workers are generally not knowledgeable about Indigenous culture and history and colonialism, including the assimilation and repression of residential schools, the 60s scoop, and Indian hospitals,” the report reads.

“This results in spaces in which [Indigenous people who use drugs] feel judged and like misfits.”

The ‘desperately needed’ strategy is the first of its kind in Canada, according to city councillor and board of health chair Joe Cressy. (Paul Borkwood/CBC)

That’s a feeling Boyer, an Ojibway father of four, knows well.

The 51-year-old began using drugs — mainly crack cocaine — roughly two decades ago. Now a regular at the Queen Street E. centre where Harper works, Boyer grew up in a home with alcoholic parents and an abusive father. Not everyone understands that experience, he explained.

“When I’m around my people, I feel safe and at ease,” he said. “When I’m not, I’m on edge, and have my guard up.”

‘We know mainstream approaches don’t work’

Research shows “mainstream” approaches don’t work well for Indigenous families, noted Jeffrey Schiffer, executive director at Indigenous non-profit Native Child and Family Services of Toronto.

While he said the city is behind the times when it comes to co-developing strategies with the Indigenous community, Schiffer also praised Toronto Public Health for the new “proactive” direction.

“We’re also at a point where we’re recognizing that Indigenous approaches and tools are beneficial to all people,” he said.

Lawrence Boyer, left, is an Ojibway father and two-time overdose survivor. Les Harper, right, is one of only a handful of Indigenous people working in Toronto’s harm reduction community. (Jon Castell/CBC News)

The strategy report, heading to the board of health for approval later this month, stresses the legacy of trauma facing Indigenous residents today — from child protective services interventions to the ongoing crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous women.

Fringe programming in care settings is not enough, the report continues, because healing can only come when non-Indigenous people are allies “rather than accomplices in continued cultural degradation.”

To implement the strategy, Toronto Public Health has pledged to dedicate an Indigenous staff resource to work with the city in collaboration with Indigenous service providers and community members, wrote de Villa in a note introducing the report to the board of health for its Feb. 25 meeting.

But with many of the recommendations hinging on funding from higher levels of government, some question what can be accomplished.

“How is it going to be implemented? What are the resources behind it?” Schiffer asked.

In particular, it’s unclear how receptive the province would be to the calls for funding and support.

Research shows ‘mainstream’ approaches don’t work well for Indigenous families, says Jeffrey Schiffer, executive director at Indigenous non-profit Native Child and Family Services of Toronto.

While federal Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor has previously said overdose prevention sites “save lives,” Premier Doug Ford claimed the sites offer little long-term help for people with addictions while on the campaign trail last year.

Once elected, his government announced a freeze on the expansion of overdose prevention sites, despite calls from harm reduction workers and Mayor John Tory for a scaling-up of efforts instead.

It was only in late October that the Ford government announced it will keep funding supervised drug consumption sites, but their focus will change to help users receive treatment and get rehabilitated. And as recently as late last month, some sites were unsure if the province would accept their funding applications.

Against that backdrop, Harper also wonders about the strategy’s future.

Standing outside the jam-packed health centre where he works, he said one thing is clear: Drug use is affecting Toronto’s Indigenous communities at a far higher rate than non-Indigenous groups, meaning the city’s approach needs to shift before the crisis gets worse.

“Every Indigenous person I know who works in social work will have a relative come into their space,” Harper said. “A non-Indigenous person will work their whole life — and never have a family member walk in their door.”

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/when-i-m-around-my-people-i-feel-safe-city-aims-to-combat-indigenous-overdoses-amid-opioid-crisis-1.5025560

CATIE: Programming Connection Case Study on keepSIX Supervised Consumption Service

CATIE: Programming Connection. Shared Experience, Stronger Programs.

CATIE includes a case study of SRCHC’s keepSIX Supervised Consumption Service in Programming Connection.

The Programming Connection is an online toolkit that highlights promising approaches to frontline programs in HIV and hepatitis C prevention, testing, treatment, care and support efforts in Canadian communities.

Canadian AIDS Treatment Information Exchange (CATIE) strengthens Canada’s response to HIV and hepatitis C by bridging research and practice. CATIE connects healthcare and community-based service providers with the latest science, and promote good practices for prevention and treatment programs.

https://www.catie.ca/en/pc/program/keepsix

UPDATE Programs and Services at SRCHC – 955 Queen St East

On Sunday, January 20, 2019 SRCHC’s 955 Queen Street East location had a flood that resulted in extensive damage throughout all floors of the Health Centre.

Everyone at SRCHC is pulling together to deal with the immediate impact of the flood, particularly focused on safety, servicing the community and re-building, which we anticipate will take 4-6 weeks.

We have been lucky to have the support of community partners who are helping us find spaces to run programs and services until the building construction is complete.

We still ask that if you have an appointment at 955 Queen St E., or are attending a group at 955 Queen St E., please visit our website or call 416-461-1925 for more information.