July 19, 2019
BRANDON - Alongside Kim Longstreet, Liberal Candidate for Brandon East, Manitoba Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont announced today the Liberal plan for the addictions crisis plaguing Manitoba communities. Meth addiction is a fast-moving epidemic and Manitoba is stuck reacting in slow motion.
“We haven’t heard a word on prevention from the Pallister Government. All the emphasis from the PCs and NDP has been on dealing with people in the throes of full-blown addiction with no emphasis on prevention,” said Lamont. “We need to divert people from taking meth in the first place and make sure they can get the treatment they need to recover.”
A Manitoba Liberal Government will use a portion of the revenue from legal cannabis to implement the following:
Prevention and Intervention
-Create a province-wide public awareness campaign against meth — including print, web and traditional media
- Fund anti-gang and intervention programs so that young people can choose positive options before they are drawn into crime and drugs
- Create a system that provides seamless service and a continuum of care so that people seeking treatment can get it
- Create “drug stabilization units” where people in meth withdrawal can be safely held and so they can’t hurt themselves or others
- Extend recovery times in public treatment beds so that substance users can take the time that they need to recover
- Fund transitional housing with mental health supports and provide further housing for people so they can recover
- Expand harm reduction to reduce deaths and critical health incidents associated with injection drug use
Lamont said the goal of harm reduction is to recognize the humanity of substance users and keep them healthy enough to make it to recovery.
“Every single Manitoban has known someone with an addiction. It touches every family. This government needs to send a message to Manitoba families facing this struggle: You are not alone,” said Lamont.
The Liberals have previously announced they would invest in local community safety by improving funding to local police forces and lifting the Pallister freeze on funding to municipalities. They will also share 25% of new cannabis funding with municipalities, and proposed creating a Manitoba Police Service to replace the contract policing currently being done by the RCMP. The MPS would have anti-gang and anti-drug units that could disrupt the flow of illegal drugs into the province.
Since Brian Pallister was first elected, Manitoba has been repeatedly hit with one addictions crisis after another. Manitoba Liberals have repeatedly called for a comprehensive plan from the Pallister Government . In October of 2017, Liberal Health Critic Jon Gerrard questioned Premier Pallister about his plans for explosion in methamphetamine use and the governments complete inaction during their first year in office. Pallister skirted the question launching into a typical tirade about Ottawa.
In October 2018, Manitoba Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont and the Liberal caucus called on the Pallister Government to declare a public health emergency. Once again, the government turned a deaf ear to the problem.
The dramatic rise in methamphetamine use has been associated with a major increase (about 50%) in property crime in Winnipeg, with increased violence in Winnipeg hospitals, and an increased homicide rate. In short, it has caused widespread social disruption.
The Pallister Conservative Government has done little that is coordinated, comprehensive or effective to address this methamphetamine crisis or to prevent additional methamphetamine use.
Various centres in Manitoba have been involved in helping individuals with meth addiction including the Alcohol Foundation of Manitoba, the Main Street project, the Health Sciences Centre, Morberg House, The Behavioural Health Foundation, and others. There has however, been insufficient coordination among these efforts. Individuals with a methamphetamine addiction have been left without a clear path to get help.
Manitoba Liberals have drawn on extensive conversations with many who have been involved in various aspects of trying to address or help deal with the methamphetamine epidemic, have carefully read the reports presented and have included actions in the comprehensive plan which will address the issues raised in these reports — including the need for coordination and the need to address the various phases of an effective humane and safe treatment program for individuals taking methamphetamine.
1. A province-wide public awareness prevention program for adults and youth
A major education and awareness effort for youth and for adults to create a much broader understanding of the dangers of taking methamphetamine and other illicit drugs in order to reduce the level of methamphetamine use in Manitoba. For youth, this would include having information on meth addictions and its dangers taught in schools with outreach by public health nurses and addictions specialists.
2. Create drug stabilization units so people can detox in a safe, secure setting
Setting up a centre to help individuals with meth psychosis to stabilize them and to start detoxification. These must be free and public spaces that allow substance users the time they need to recover.
3. Provide transitional housing with mental health supports
Coordinate and provide funding support to organizations such as Morberg House which can provide intensive residential care and support during a treatment and stabilization phase.
4. Work with the Federal Government and municipalities on longer-term housing so substance users can resume independent living
Coordinate and provide funding support for organizations which provide residential care with supports for an extended follow up period of up to an additional 9 to 12 months.
5. Expand harm reduction across Manitoba
The purpose of harm reduction is to reduce the likelihood of death and infectious diseases among substance users. A single user who gets endocarditis (a heart infection associated with meth) may cost millions to treat, while ensuring they stay safe will cost less.
Meth in particular “powers” STBBI’s – Sexually Transmitted and Blood Borne Infections, including syphilis, gonorrhea and HIV, including through infected needles.
The benefits of harm reduction are a much healthier population at lower cost.