Posts Tagged "struggles"


‘They failed me’: High-profile Mountie walks away from B.C. RCMP after struggles with PTSD

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A high-profile Mountie is walking away from the RCMP after what she calls “unforgivable” neglect from the institution.

Staff Sgt. Jennifer Pound was the face of Integrated Homicide Investigation Team for years, a role that eventually left her suffering with post-traumatic stress disorder.

After years of struggle, she has decided to retire early, saying she could no longer in good conscience, represent the organization.

Deep roots in the RCMP

Pound says she knew she wanted to be a police officer when she was 15, following in her father’s footsteps.

“He really did enjoy his work and came home and raved about how much he loved working every day,” she told CTV News Vancouver. “So, I kind of wanted to mimic that and have a career that you know, felt a part of a family to and really enjoy the camaraderie and a sense of purpose.”

Her brother, husband and many other family members also became members.

At 23, Pound began her career in the University detachment, before heading to North Vancouver.

“I went on to a legal gaming section, the missing women unit and then the Richmond detachment is where I really started to get into the media component of policing,” said Pound.

A slow burn

After years of commitment, Pound was brought onto the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team where she was promoted twice, eventually becoming a staff sergeant.

“People that want to go there want to see justice and they want to see people held accountable for the most horrific crime that you can encounter,” she explained.

As the unit’s spokesperson she worked closely with the families of victims, shouldering the burden of some of the province’s most brutal murders in a very public way.

She believes those interactions triggered the initial symptoms of PTSD.

“On camera, I can be stoic, and I can be whoever I need to be to get that message across. But at the end of the day, I’m walking in my own door to go home. And my family’s not getting the best of me.”

She began experiencing what she described as flu-like symptoms that she couldn’t seem to shake.

“Thankfully, it manifested itself physically or I don’t really know when I would have stopped to take a break and get myself well,” she said.

She was forced to seek medical attention and was put on a two-week medical leave.

“It was just slipping more into an abyss of illness and not being able to get out of bed and hitting just a really, really deep, dark depression within those two weeks,” she told CTV News.

Seeking treatment

Pound was diagnosed with PTSD by her family doctor and was put on another three-month leave.

“The crucial time for in my opinion for the RCMP to get involved with individuals that are off work are from the very, very initial stages,” she said. “You can’t have your people off work sick and not be checking in on them and not at least be acknowledging that you play a role in their recovery.”

She says her direct supervisors were supportive, but RCMP health services was not.

“The very first call that I received from the RCMP was from the graduated return to work people to say, ‘When are you going to get back to work?’ Which is really, really damaging when an individual is trying to figure out what’s wrong with them,” Pound said.

She says that call only exasperated the guilt and shame she was already feeling.

On top of that, she was faced with a six-month waitlist to see a psychologist.

“There’s a real pressure to get members back on the road. And that pressure can be dangerous when you’re dealing with first responders and policing you don’t want sick members on the road.”

It ended up taking her more than a year to see a psychologist that had experience working with first responders.

“What I needed is some from somebody health services to go, ‘Here’s the process. Here’s what you can expect,’ and offer up some psychologists, some doctors, something tangible and helpful for me to move forward in my healing process,” she explained.

RCMP health services

National Headquarters says RCMP health services operates through three programs:

  • Occupational health: which assesses an officer’s fitness to perform law enforcement duties.
  • Disability management and accommodation: which recommends limitations or restrictions to ill or injured members.
  • Health benefits: which determines whether illness or injuries are work-related.

“When you describe yourself as a health services unit, there’s an expectation from the members that they’re going to help you get healthy,” Pound said.

The RCMP says its members are covered for basic health care under provincial/territorial health care plans.

“The health and safety of our members is a top priority for the RCMP and is essential to public safety,” said the RCMP in a statement to CTV News.

“Although, we can’t comment on specific cases, we take work-related stress and mental health issues very seriously and are committed to enhancing the health, safety and resiliency of all our employees. Our work on mental health will never be done.”

Pound says the institution needs to play a bigger role in securing mental health support in a timely manner.

“Health services within the RCMP are ineffective,” she said.

“They failed me right out of the gate.”

‘Stay on the Line’

Pound has been blogging about her struggles with PTSD through a blog called “Stay on the Line,” referencing what 911 dispatchers often tell people in crisis before help is on the way.

She says she’s been inundated with responses from other first responders who have faced similar challenges accessing care.

Going forward she hopes to use the platform to let people with PTSD know they are not alone.

She says the decision to take an early retirement wasn’t an easy one, as she still had many things she wanted to accomplish in policing.

“I knew I couldn’t go back and feel good about myself and feel good about myself for working for an organization that I knew had forgotten me as soon as I stepped out the door.” 

This is part one of a three-part series. Check back for more this week.


‘Back at square one:’ B.C. Crohn’s patient struggles with forced transition to biosimilar medication

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For 10 years, Debbie Aschwanden managed the symptoms of Crohn’s disease with a drug called Remicade.

When the provincial government announced it would no longer fund the drug through Pharmacare, she and about 1,700 patients with inflammatory bowel disease were told to switch to a less-expensive copycat drug before March 5.

For two months after she switched, the Williams Lake insurance broker struggled with “horrible” symptoms that felt like a Crohn’s flare-up or a bad flu.

“I was super sick,” said Aschwanden, who has a 13-year-old son. “I had to miss a few days of work even though I tried to push through.”

She switched to Inflectra first, one of the two biosimilar drugs indicated by the government to replace Remicade. After two infusions, her doctor switched her to another biosimilar called Renflexis, hoping for a better result. So far, she hasn’t had the same symptoms, but she isn’t feeling as healthy as she did while on the original biologic drug.

“After I was diagnosed (with Crohn’s), I was so thankful to find something that helped,” she said. “To have that ripped from under me was really tough. It was like I was back at square one.”

Crohn’s patients were part of a second group of British Columbians who were required to transition their prescriptions to a biosimilar equivalent beginning last year.

In September, the government announced gastroenterology patients across B.C. would have six months to switch their prescription from Remicade to Inflectra or Renflexis.

The news followed a similar announcement in May, when B.C. became the first Canadian province to stop funding three injectable drugs, including Lantus, Ebrel and Remicade, for non-gastroenterology patients. An estimated 20,000 patients were given until Nov. 25 to switch to biosimilar drugs for diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, plaque psoriasis and several other chronic conditions.

Coverage for the original drugs would only be provided in exceptional cases, decided on a case-by-case basis.

Debbie Aschwanden with her husband Sepp and son Josef.

Submitted photo /


Biosimilars are similar to generic drugs in that they are manufactured after the 20-year patent expires on the original biologics. But they cost 25 to 50 per cent less than the original.

According to the B.C. Ministry of Health, the province spent $125 million on the three biologic drugs affected by the policy change in 2018, including $84.2 million on Remicade. Since Remicade was approved for sale by the federal government in 2001, the province has spent more than $671 million.

“We know that the use of biosimilars in other countries has worked extremely well in ensuring people get the medication they need, and it’s time we caught up,” Health Minister Adrian Dix said at a news conference in September. “By using biosimilars in B.C., we will be putting about $96.6 million back into health care over the next three years.”

But critics said the financial gains don’t offset the hardship experienced by patients who are sensitive to prescription changes.

“We’ve heard of dozens and dozens of challenges experienced by people in B.C.,” said Mina Mawani, president and CEO of Crohn’s & Colitis Canada.

She said the charity is aware of 140 Crohn’s patients who have applied for an exemption to receive coverage for Remicade, but only two have been approved. Among those denied was a person with Stage 4 cancer who also has Crohn’s disease and someone with a complex history of anxiety. Several nursing mothers are waiting to hear if their exemption requests will be approved.

Mina Mawani.


“I feel disheartened,” said Mawani. “We’ve been told that patients are simply being emotional about switching. But we know they’re not emotional. This is their life.”

She said Crohn’s & Colitis Canada believes biosimilars are a safe and effective treatment for people with inflammatory bowel disease, but patients and doctors should have a choice.

“The issue is not about starting new patients on the biosimilar drugs. It’s about the government forcing people who are stable to make the switch. What does that do to their health, including their mental health?”

Mawani said the government isn’t able to answer that question because it is not adequately tracking the impact of the switch on individual patients.

The Ministry of Health was unable to provide answers to questions about outcomes for people with Crohn’s disease or the number exceptional requests it has received. Material on its website says B.C. spent nine years studying biosimilars before announcing the switch, consulting with a wide variety of physician and patient groups, as well as regional health authorities and Health Canada.

Figures provided by the Ministry of Health shows that as of Dec. 31, 55 per cent of B.C. patients on Lantus had switched to a biosimilar, while 78 per cent on Enbrel and 73 per cent on Remicade for non-gastrointestinal issues had switched, for a total of 11,930 patients.

Gastroenterology patients were given until March 5 to transition from Remicade to Inflectra or Renflexis. As of Dec. 31, 28 per cent, or 529 people out of 1,858, had switched.

Not everyone is upset about biosimilars, with many B.C. doctors and scientists in favour of them. As a result of thesavings, diabetics now receive coverage for an additional drug, Jardiance, which doctors had long advocated.


Dix said he made the switch to a 15 per cent cheaper biosimilar to treat his Type 1 diabetes and there were no negative effects.

B.C. Diabetes’s medical director, Dr. Tom Elliott, also characterized the switch as a “non-event” for diabetics, calling the transition “seamless.”

“The big story for me is what the government is going to do with the money saved. It’s led to the approval of another drug, which is a great thing. What else will they do?”

Health Canada has also said it has no concerns about the B.C. policy and there are no differences expected between the categories of drugs when it comes to safety and effectiveness.

Since B.C. made the switch to biologic drugs, Manitoba and Alberta have followed suit, with Ontario considering the change as well. In Alberta, where patients have until July to transition, the Opposition NDP is urging the government to reconsider and Crohn’s patients rallied outside the legislature in December.



With Postmedia files


‘This is all for her’: Chilliwack mom on brink of homelessness struggles to support family | CBC News

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Michelle Pacquette nearly lost her baby daughter Eleanor once — and she’s trying her hardest not to lose her again.

Last summer, Pacquette found the infant lying lifeless inside her crib in the middle of the night, just weeks after she was born. The incident was later diagnosed as a case of sudden infant death syndrome.

“My attempts at giving her CPR didn’t work,” Pacquette told CBC News from her home in Chilliwack. “I had to call on my son Lucas to help… and he saved her life.”

Though Eleanor survived, the baby, now just over six months old, suffered severe brain damage. She’s partially blind and has been diagnosed with epilepsy and cerebral palsy. Pacquette says she spends many of her days travelling to medical appointments across the region.

But she has four other kids, and the family is in dire financial straits. Pacquette couldn’t afford to pay the December rent on her three-bedroom apartment as she grapples with health, food and living costs.

Poverty advocates say Pacquette’s situation has become all too common in the Fraser Valley and beyond, as the unaffordability crisis hits families across the province.

Eleanor Pacquette has undergone rounds of medical treatment since her sudden infant death syndrome episode. (Submitted by Michelle Pacquette)

“As the cost of living increases, the cost of housing, the cost of child care — particularly for children with special needs — people are falling into poverty,” said Helesia Luke, a spokesperson with the poverty advocacy group First Call B.C.

A recent provincial report card found that one in five children in B.C. are in poverty.

“This is not a problem exclusive to the metro region at all,” said Luke, “As people leave those urban centres to get more affordable housing, housing prices in those [other] areas go up as well.”

Pacquette hopes her family will get accepted into an affordable home provided by B.C. Housing. But after sitting on the provincial registry for more than two years, she worries they will end up on the street.

“It’s very difficult. A mother should never ever have to be put in this position — to really be faced to look at paying expenses and bills, or paying your rent,” she said. “It’s really hard.”

Six-month old Eleanor suffered severe brain damage after suddenly losing consciousness just weeks after she was born. (Jon Hernandez/CBC)

On the move

Pacquette is a former support worker for vulnerable women, now off work and collecting a monthly disability payment.

The family moved to Metro Vancouver from Cranbrook, B.C. in 2017, where they lived in subsidized housing. Leaving that behind was a tough decision for Pacquette, but she felt it was necessary.

Her six-year-old son Boden has autism and she said there are more health services available for him in B.C.’s Lower Mainland.

“We left B.C. Housing for market rental — and we’ve just been trying to survive ever since,” she said.

Since then, she’s had three more kids. Eleanor and her twin brother, Max, were born in June. The family of six has since settled in Chilliwack.

Michelle Pacquette holds her twins, Eleanor and Max, who were born in June. (Jon Hernandez/CBC)

Treating both Boden and Eleanor’s disabilities on a limited income has been a challenge. Pacquette has to make weekly trips to Vancouver for medical services, often for days at a time. The costs of food, fuel, accommodations, and medications have piled up.

“I’m just overblown with the amount of appointments we have make,” she said. “We see a pediatrician once a month, a neurologist once a month, physiotherapy, occupational therapy. We see a dietitian, we see an ophthalmologist… It’s put us into a financial crisis.”

Pacquette asked to be issued an eviction notice prior to the day before her rent was due, knowing she couldn’t afford it.

The document allows her to apply for a $700 crisis supplement from the Ministry of Children and Family Development. She’s hopeful she can put the dollars toward a delayed rent payment.

The Pacquette family lives in a Chillwack townhome, and are hopeful they will get into a home subsidized by B.C. Housing. (Jon Hernandez/CBC)

‘A miracle’

Pacquette has been working closely with housing advocates at the Salvation Army. Captain Matt Kean said the organization has been working to find housing options for her.

B.C. Housing would not comment on the circumstances due to confidentiality, but noted there are more than 20,000 people on its registry whose needs are assessed on a case-by-case basis. The agency offers subsidized units to families — but advocates say they can be difficult to access.

Viveca Ellis, a community organizer for the B.C. Poverty Reduction Coalition, said single mothers with more than three children struggle to find adequate housing in Metro Vancouver and across the province.

“They end up waiting on the affordable housing lists for a very long time, because there is not enough large family stock in British Columbia.”

It’s a future that feels fragile, and uncertain. But Pacquette draws inspiration from her daughter.

“This is all for her. It is absolutely all for her,” she said.

 “Life is just too short, and when you have such a miracle such as her, you have to cherish every moment. I just look at her, and I’m just extremely blessed,” she said.


Prince George struggles to find public washroom solution | CBC News

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City council in Prince George is trying to find ways to increase accessibility to public washrooms in the downtown area.

There are few options available for people, and many businesses have chosen not to grant public access to their facilities because of fear of overdoses and safety concerns. 

City staff presented a report to council this week, which highlighted there are no perfect solutions and that other cities are also struggling with this issue. 

“This is a really tough topic, and I think if I were able to pull some themes it would be…that providing access to public washrooms for everybody that needs to access them, and ensuring that they are clean and safe, is challenging,” said Chris Bone, city manager of social planning.

“My research has shown that no community has figured out how to do this effectively and that some of the communities that were seen to be ahead of the curve are now faced with having to rethink initial solutions because we’re working in a very different world now.”

After a heated debate, council agreed to try one of city staff’s recommendations to provide additional funding to social service providers, such as Saint Vincent de Paul, which already grant public washroom access.

Many of these providers have restricted access to their washrooms in the past because they don’t have the resources to monitor them. The funding is intended to offset the cost of having an assigned washroom monitor during peak hours.

Other cities

One of the other options staff proposed, was giving businesses $500 to open their bathrooms. However, this was tried in Yellowknife, and most businesses weren’t willing to do it for that amount.

Another option considered was bringing in self-contained stalls — called a Portland Loo — which are difficult to vandalize.

The town of Smithers introduced them two years ago. However, staff received mixed reviews from other cities that had them because of concerns that opioid users would overdose inside.

Cost of opening washroom doors

The Prince George Public Library is one of the few places that offers public washrooms, but it’s come at a cost.

In the past, library staff have had to call paramedics because of overdoses, and the security budget has now increased from $55,000 in 2015, to more than $150,000 this year. 

Amy Dhanjal, communications coordinator for the library, said in a recent count, staff found that between 20 to 40 people were using the washroom per hour. 

“We looked at percentages and we saw that about 14 per cent of those people are just coming in to use the washroom and then they’re leaving the library,” she told Daybreak North’s Nicole Oud.

Everyone needs washrooms, says Dhanjal

However, despite challenges the library has faced from opening its washrooms to the public, Dhanjal believes it’s important for the city to be accessible. 

“I know often when people think about public washrooms and people are advocating for public washrooms, the conversation sometimes focuses on people who are experiencing homelessness,” she said.

“But, there are so many other people that need to use the washroom; people that have Crohn’s, people who are menstruating, people that are elderly sometimes need a bathroom right away.”

When you gotta go, you gotta go. But in downtown Prince George, it can be hard to find somewhere to do so. Nicole Oud reports. 8:31

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