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February 23, 2021
“The Harm Reduction Peer Empowerment COVID Recovery Project is meeting people where they are with mutual respect and kindness,” says Sonja Burke, RHAC’s Director of Harm Reduction. “The impact is: value and validation, a full stomach, equal pay for equal work, and human connection.”
Since launching in January, the project has welcomed 6 peers who work various shifts during the week, helping to prepare harm reduction and wound care kits. They are paid hourly, receive a warm meal, and are provided public transportation to and from our site. “It is a warm and safe place for people to be during the day versus on the streets," says Sonja.
Since the onset of COVID-19, the demand for harm reduction supplies has only increased. A growing number of clients are counting on RHAC’s harm reduction kits, which are made available through our 26 partner satellite locations, regular outreach services, and the new HOME program (www.homeprogram.ca). The Peer Empowerment project allows us to meet this demand and values the participation of people who use drugs by engaging them in our response to the ongoing opioid crisis and COVID-19 pandemic.
People experiencing addiction need access to safe and supportive spaces that can foster human connection. This is especially true during COVID-19, when isolation measures are impacting marginalized folks and the availability of services. Our peer program provides a space where participants can make connections with each other and to other supports (including housing, food banks and health services).
We’re pleased with the positive impact this new program is making and—with the support and input of our peers—we expect this project to continue improving the lives of people experiencing addiction. Thank you to Jackie Hutchison our Peer Support Coordinator, to the Emergency Community Support Fund (London Community Foundation) and, most importantly, our peer participants for supporting this important and impactful initiative!
Here's what our peers had to say about this new project:
“I feel accepted and part of a group that understands me and doesn’t judge me.”
"My life is better since this started."
"I wake up feeling like I have a purpose each day."
(Photo: Peer Support Coordinator Jackie Hutchison)
February 17, 2021
Every year, the Ontario Volunteer Service Awards recognize volunteers for providing years of dedicated service to an organization. On February 17, we came together—virtually—to celebrate RHAC's 2020 recipients: Madeleine Barrette, Ray Sutherland and Jerry Ross.
• Madeleine Barrette celebrates 10 years of service to the John Gordon Home, where Madeleine is known as “The Cookie Lady”. Once a week, she bakes the most delicious cookies for residents (and some lucky staff). She also supports our fundraising events, such as A Taste for Life and A Heartfelt Evening.
• Ray Sutherland was awarded for 5 years of service at RHAC, where Ray has been an integral part of the volunteer reception team, Red Scarf, A Taste for Life, and our weekly volunteer drop-in.
• Jerry Ross was recognized for 5 years of service at the John Gordon Home. Jerry assists with weekly grocery shopping for residents and helps with set up special occasions like the Summer BBQ and Holiday events.
RHAC, and our John Gordon Home program, are so lucky to work with dedicated, committed volunteers who have stayed with us for years! On behalf of our clients, staff and Board: Thank you to our volunteers for all that you do.
February 4, 2021
Today we’re excited to announce the official launch of the Health Outreach Mobile Engagement (H.O.M.E) Program. The H.O.M.E Program aims to improve the health outcomes and healthy equity of highly marginalized individuals by providing mobile health services to people where they are at.
The H.O.M.E Program provides a multi-disciplinary, multi-sectoral mobile response to improve the health outcomes and health equity of highly marginalized individuals in London. The H.O.M.E Program serves individuals who face barriers to accessing traditional models of healthcare and social services, including those who are homeless, insecurely housed, or under-housed.
The program is a collaborative approach between the London Intercommunity Health Centre, Middlesex-London Paramedic Services, Addiction Services of Thames Valley, and Regional HIV/AIDS Connection with various site partners including Goodwill Industries, London & Middlesex Community Housing, Winter Interim Solution to Homelessness Coalition, and Youth Opportunities Unlimited.
The HOME service model is the kind of progressive and integrated health care approach that is needed both in the context of the present COVID 19 situation and when we move past this pandemic. RHAC is pleased to collaborate with these respected community partners on this initiative as we strive to connect with and provide life-saving support to many of London’s most vulnerable citizens. - Brian Lester, Executive Director of RHAC
Visit www.homeprogram.ca to learn more.
February 1, 2021
February is Black History Month. Throughout the month, virtual events organized by the London Black History Coordinating Committee (LBHCC) will be celebrating the strength and resilience of Black communities in Southwestern Ontario. This year, all events (except February 19th's African Food Festival) will take place online using Zoom. You can register for online events at lbhcc.eventbrite.com and learn more at lbhcc.ca.
African, Caribbean and Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day
On February 7, African, Caribbean and Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day helps to raise awareness and address stigma surrounding HIV, which continues to disproportionately impact African, Caribbean and Black communities.
"...has created inequities that leave African, Caribbean and Black Canadians more vulnerable to HIV infection and poor health outcomes. We have seen anti-Black racism in the disproportionate policing, criminalization and media reporting of African, Caribbean and Black people living with HIV for non-disclosure of HIV status. Furthermore, disproportionate rates of incarceration have a compounding effect on the risk of HIV and hepatitis C infection."
All of us must address inequities and systemic racism in our communities, not just one day or month out of the year, but every single day. To learn more, visit BlackHIVDay.ca.
December 23, 2020
Effective Dec 26 at 12:01 am until January 23rd 2021 the government of Ontario has announced that the province will be subject to a shutdown.
The province-wide shutdown will look similar to the shutdown back in March, with only essential businesses being allowed to remain open.
Like the shutdown in March, RHACs “essential services” will continue to operate and will include;
- Carepoint / Counterpoint Programs
- John Gordon Home Program
- HIV/HCV Support Services
- Various Administrative Services
This shutdown is considered a state of emergency and RHAC may deploy staff resources to meet coverage needs across program areas as necessary (with training and support).
Given this is the holiday season we recognize this development comes at a challenging time for most people. It is important to remind everyone that the best way to prevent COVID 19 transmission is through adherence to all public health recommendation/measures.
It is important to note that the government is also asking that “people do not leave home unless it is for an essential reason and only travel outside their own region if absolutely necessary”. Further the government has notified citizens that “Anyone who travels within Canada during the province-wide shutdown is being asked to self-isolate upon their return to Ontario.”
December 21, 2020
Regional HIV/AIDS Connection is currently seeking an Organizational Development Consultant who is also an independent contractor to act as the Program Administrator for the Ontario Organizational Development Program (OODP). To express interest in this exciting opportunity, please submit your proposal by no later than Monday January 11th, 2021 at 4:00 p.m.
For full details about this posting, click here or visit our Career Opportunities page.
For more information about OODP, visit www.oodp.ca.
December 5, 2020
We miss our volunteers. While RHAC continues to serve our community, something is missing: Our volunteers. Each and every one of you is incredibly important to our organization and our mission. You make a huge difference in our community, and your absence is certainly felt by our staff. While we miss all of you very much, your health and safety is our priority and we’re happy to know you are staying safe at home. You may not be here with us at the moment, but you are still a vital part of the RHAC family and our community. Thank you so much for all that you do!
We look forward to coming back together soon.
— Fran McKeown, Coordinator of Volunteer Services
In recognition of our wonderful volunteers, RHAC is proud to honour International Volunteer Day. Here's what our remarkable team of volunteers accomplished in 2019:
November 25, 2020
Regional HIV AIDS Connection's (RHAC) Board of Directors would like to announce the release of our organization’s position statement on safe supply.
RHAC is an evidence-informed agency committed to harm reduction practices that positively impact those living with, at risk for, or affected by HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis C. It is with this mission we strongly support the advancement of safe supply programs across London and all communities.
The response to the COVID-19 pandemic has shown how quickly our governments and our communities can come together in life-threatening situations. We ask that the same response be given to the ongoing opioid pandemic affecting those most vulnerable in our communities. Safe supply offers an evidence-based response that can reverse the increasing trend of opioid overdose deaths and other substance-related harms.
Given all these variables, the Board of Directors at Regional HIV/AIDS Connection strongly urge all levels of government to expand access to safe supply in Ontario demonstrating the courage to do what is right for those in need of support in our communities.
Read the full Position Statement on Safe Supply.
November 23, 2020
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 23, 2020
London, ON – The Middlesex-London Health Unit (MLHU) and Regional HIV/AIDS Connection (RHAC) have been notified that the Government of Ontario has approved the application for a permanent Consumption and Treatment Service (CTS) in London, at 446 York Street. The announcement includes funding to pay for renovations at the site and to undertake operations once the facility is ready to receive patients. Construction is expected to begin in Spring 2021.
Provincial approval of the proposed site, confirmation of funding and the required federal exemption under section 56.1 of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act were the final steps in the process that began in 2018 to establish a permanent CTS and provide services where they are needed most. Once complete, the facility will allow clients to consume pre-obtained drugs under medical supervision and have access to additional services, including treatment and counselling programs.
“This is a landmark moment for London. These facilities have repeatedly been proven to not only save lives, they also improve lives by providing women and men with the necessary resources and supports to pursue recovery, independence, and fulfillment. This success simply would not have been possible without unprecedented coordination, collaboration, and cooperation across numerous local agencies. We must also acknowledge and give thanks to our federal and provincial partners for the important roles they’ve played in arriving at this critical juncture.” says Mayor Ed Holder.
“Opioid deaths were at epidemic levels before the pandemic, and have skyrocketed since. Today’s announcement is the result of so much hard work by so many people, from the thousands who participated in community consultations to the dozens and dozens who wrote letters of support. Thank you! All of your hard work has paid off, and will result in lives being saved.”.” says Dr. Chris Mackie, Medical Officer of Health with the Middlesex-London Health Unit.
“We commend Mayor Holder and Minister Elliot for their leadership in approving the permanent home for this life saving service. With this critical step finalized, we look forward to working with our health and social service partners to deliver enhanced wraparound services out of the permanent site,” says Scott Courtice, Executive Director, London Intercommunity Health Centre.
RHAC is the primary program operator of Carepoint. RHAC works collaboratively with London Intercommunity Health Center (LIHC) to support medical components of the service, with MLHU recognized as a vital founding partner and ongoing champion of this local public health initiative.
Since opening at its temporary site at 186 King Street, the skilled and caring staff of London’s temporary CTS have prevented more than 295 potential opioid-related deaths, supported close to 48,500 visits and facilitated hundreds and hundreds of referrals to a range of services including: addictions treatment and counselling, primary care, HIV/HCV testing and related clinical care, system navigation, detox services, housing and other vital social services.
“Today marks the culmination of a dream that has been in the works for months. Carepoint and RHAC will be able to grow and enhance the services that many people in our community have come to rely upon,” says Brian Lester, Executive Director at Regional HIV / AIDS Connection. “We have developed relationships with many of the people who live and struggle with the challenges of addiction every day. Today’s announcement brings added hope for a brighter tomorrow and the knowledge for so many people that their lives matter.”
Dan Flaherty, Communications Manager, Middlesex-London Health Unit, 519-663-5317 ext. 2469 or 519-617-0570 (cell.)
Brian Lester, Executive Director, Regional HIV/AIDS Connection
Dr. Chris Mackie, Medical Officer of Health, Middlesex-London Health Unit
September 14, 2020
The past number of months we have all adjusted to many changes in our community as we worked together to reduce the spread of COVID 19. To ensure the health and wellness of our community, RHAC has followed all COVID response recommendations of public health and government directives. At this stage I am pleased to advise that we have determined a plan to expand available services at 186 King Street.
RHAC continued to provide “essential” on-site services throughout these past 6 months and we also delivered additional important services utilizing remote/virtual approaches. Throughout this time we have remained committed to serving the needs of people living with, affected by or at risk for HIV and HCV or vulnerable to opioid poisoning (overdose).
Effective Monday, September 14th we are pleased to let you know that we will begin to increase available on site services at 186 King Street. These services will be accessible by appointment or by drop in.
Staff from HIV/HCV Support Services will be on site to provide a range of supports including:
- Case management supports, peer support, Country Cupboard (food bank) and more
- Various community partners will be scheduled at 186 King for on-site HIV/HCV testing and more.
All individuals accessing services on site will be subject to the following requirements:
- Standard COVID 19 screening questions
- Wear a mask while on site (a mask will be provided as necessary)
- Use of hand sanitizer upon entry to RHAC premises, and continuous regular use throughout their visit
- NOTE: All RHAC staff and on-site partners participate in daily COVID-19 screening prior to entering the workplace
The 186 King Street entrance has controlled access. Individuals who intend to access RHAC through the King Street entrance simply need to take the following steps:
- Use the vestibule buzzer # 4003. RHAC staff will let individuals into the building
- Remain in lobby until a RHAC staff member comes to greet you
- RHAC staff will accompany individuals to and from designated service areas
- RHAC staff will wear a mask (or additional PPE as deemed necessary) for all service interactions
RHAC remains committed to the safety for its staff, service users, and guests and we will continue to monitor the impact of our service expansion and adjust approaches as necessary.
Thanks and we look forward to providing these expanded services to members of our community.