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How compassion and quick thinking maintains resiliency at the Dr. Peter Centre

In recognition of their ongoing effort to provide support for their participants and team members in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Dr. Peter AIDS Foundation received funding through the TD Community Resilience Initiative.
Melissa Clave Brule, Recreation Therapist with Newton, the Dr. Peter Centre therapy dog. Photo provided by Dr. Peter Centre.

By TD Bank in collaboration with Dr. Peter AIDS Foundation.

Scott Elliott and his team know how to handle a crisis.

As the executive director of the Dr. Peter Centre in Vancouver, Elliott leads a passionate group of volunteers and staff comprised of health-care professionals who provide critical support services for people living with HIV, mental illness and substance use disorder. 

This year, when health officials sounded the alarm over COVID-19, the Centre knew they had to mobilize quickly.

"It meant that we just had to work harder and be more adaptive to keep our doors open," Elliott said. "This was especially critical to ensure our participants continued to have access to their medications, food, and therapeutic services during a period of incredible change."

The Centre's team immediately jumped into action, ensuring there was enough personal protective equipment – masks, shields, gloves, gowns, and goggles – available for use. Sanitation procedures and hygiene practices were rolled out, and plexiglass screens in key areas of the Centre were installed. When retailers were running out of hand sanitizer, those in the war room didn't wait. 

"We installed sinks in the lobby," Elliott said with a chuckle. "Without hand sanitizer, we saw it as the only way to enable staff and participants to wash their hands as soon as they entered and exited our building. This is critically important for participants who are considered immunocompromised."

Generating creative solutions for complex issues is part of the Centre's modus operandi. Having spent years on the front-line battling against widespread diseases, the Centre and its people are known for being innovative problem solvers, compassionate allies, and fierce champions for the most marginalized citizens. 

"First and foremost, we are guided by compassion," Elliot said. "Compassion dictates that we support those who have challenges supporting themselves."

Born out of the AIDS pandemic with the establishment of the Dr. Peter AIDS Foundation in the early 90s, the Centre has been providing day health programs and 24-hour specialized residential nursing care for hundreds of people living with HIV/AIDS in British Columbia since 1997.

They have also been leaders within the overdose epidemic that has gripped the province and much of Canada. 

In the early 2000s, the Centre quietly opened the first supervised injection site in North America, and in recent years, they have been called upon to provide crucial expertise to aid researchers, other community-based service providers, and government in designing, implementing, and studying harm reduction strategies and health-care support programs for people trying to overcome opioid addiction.

Dr. Peter Centre Staff, with Mark Holland, Day Health Program Manager (back); Melissa Clave Brule, Recreation Therapist; and Paul Lundh, Head Chef. Photo provided by Dr. Peter Centre.

In recognition of their ongoing effort to provide support for their participants and team members in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, in August, the Dr. Peter AIDS Foundation received funding through the TD Community Resilience Initiative.

"The goal of the TD Community Resilience Initiative in the Pacific Region is to help strengthen the ability of the recipient social agencies to overcome challenges they may be experiencing during this period of uncertainty and change," said Andy Cribb, Regional Senior Vice President, TD Pacific Region. “This is a critical time to help support charitable organizations and agencies who are working tirelessly to assist vulnerable people now and into the future."

Through the TD Community Resilience Initiative, a total of $150,000 in funding was allocated for selected social service agencies and organizations delivering critical support to vulnerable communities across BC and Yukon. Demand for social services such as food, shelter, career services, and mental health shows little sign of slowing down as people and families continue to cope with the impact of the COVID-19 health crisis. 

"The world has shifted and changed for all of us over the past few months and this is no exception at the Dr. Peter Centre," Elliott said. "We cannot do this alone and, due to COVID, our fundraising events have been significantly impacted. And so, we remain grateful to have sponsors and donors such as TD who continue to offer us support."  

"Maintaining access to critical support services during this time is essential," Cribb said. "We are proud to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with organizations like Dr. Peter AIDS Foundation to help strengthen the resilience of British Columbians and Yukoners facing challenges today."

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