Board Chair & CEO Message


In the life of every organization there are key moments, watershed moments, that stand out: when a movement forms sitting around a kitchen table, cutting that ribbon on your doors for the first time, or when an organization’s founder retires.

2023 was a watershed year for South Riverdale Community Health Centre (SRCHC).

In July of 2023 our community was devastated by a violent act close to home that took the life of Karolina Huebner-Makurat, a mother, wife and local resident, who was out for a stroll in the neighbourhood. That violent loss of life shook the Leslieville community and some took aim at SRCHC, our staff and the people we serve, believing we helped foster that violence.

As we all reeled from that tragedy, we quickly realized there was more work we could do to build understanding of how services like ours can help make communities safer. We were also reminded that we had to do a better job of listening to – and working with – our local community.

This tragedy drew attention, in some cases national attention, to the opioid crisis across the country. Debates about decriminalization and types of treatment will continue to swirl, especially as political leaders try to grapple with the intractable issues of poverty, homelessness and the drug poisoning crisis. But for us at SRCHC, this all comes down to people – people who are a part of our community.

SRCHC has been serving people who use drugs for decades and became leaders in this area in 1998 when we launched our formal harm reduction services, another watershed moment. In 2016-17, we successfully launched one of the first small-scale supervised injection sites in Ontario. Since then, the illegal drug supply has grown in toxicity and so many more people are dying.

That’s why last year our Board and our staff reaffirmed our commitment to continue our harm reduction and consumption treatment services, serving some of the most vulnerable clients in the city, even when we were confronted by hostile voices.

Our consumption treatment service (CTS) has always been about public health and public safety. We truly believe that our communities are safer when we are able to support people who use drugs and connect them with the services they need. According to The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), on average 20 people die from opioid toxicity every single day in Canada. These are community members using drugs alone, at home, outdoors, or in local businesses.

CTS benefits the community by preventing some of those deaths. SRCHC overturned 124 overdoses in 2022 and 74 in 2023. In addition, SRCHC reduced the number of injections taking place on the street and prevented unsafe injection practices, which can lead to the transmission of blood borne infections. Last year we made almost a thousand referrals to mental health services.

Whether through our revitalized community liaison group or through our open houses this past year, we spent time listening to and connecting with the community. And we responded by implementing a number of local suggestions.

Although our consumption treatment service received considerable attention in 2023, we would be remiss if we didn’t highlight the exceptional work done by our staff in our many other programs and services such as diabetes and seniors support, reducing social isolation, mental health, food security, physiotherapy, primary care, environmental health, chronic disease prevention, and much more. Our incredibly dedicated and passionate staff provide group, individual, drop-in, virtual and mobile support in locations across East Toronto. This annual report tells the story of a year in the life of our organization – of which we are incredibly proud.

If 2023 was a difficult year, punctuated by a violent, senseless act, it was also a year to reflect, to review, and to affirm the dedication of our organization to the people and the communities we serve.

Jason Altenberg
Chief Executive Officer

Emily Hill                                                                             
Chair, SRCHC Board of Directors

Board of Directors:
Emily Hill
Rebecca Ho
Bella Bereket
Matthew Cheng
Philip Berger
Rishma Pradhan
Aparna Kajenthira
Jen Quito
Kristen Yee Joshi
Mike Wilson
Arman Hamidian
Nisha Hariharan