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To Save Lives, Emergency Opioid Agonist Treatment Must be Covered

Treaty 1 Territory, Homeland of the Red River Métis, Winnipeg MB - One day ahead of Overdose Awareness Day, Manitoba Liberals are urging the PCs to ensure that everyone can access treatment for the medications to treat people's opioid addictions.

Dr. Jon Gerrard, MLA for River Heights and Manitoba Liberal Health Critic said opioid use disorder is becoming the main addiction presenting at the province's RAAM clinics, but people lacking coverage fall through the cracks and cannot start Opioid Agonist Treatment (OAT) - a life saving treatment. Manitoba has seen hundreds of overdose deaths in the last few years.

Gerrard said he has heard that one to four patients per month cannot start treatment because they don't have the right medication coverage. Drugs known as Opioid Agonist Therapy (OAT) are effective to treat people with opioid addiction. It's recommended that people who qualify start the treatment within 48 hours.

If the person looking for help doesn't have private health insurance, or aren't covered by social assistance, they may be expected to pay out of pocket with money they just don't have - between $400 and $700 per month.

Manitoba Liberals say no one should be turned away because of this gap in coverage.

"Every person who dies of an overdose leaves behind families and friends who are often broken-hearted and filled with pain because of the sense they could have done more," said Gerrard. "This is life-saving therapy that can prevent overdose. No one seeking help at a RAAM clinic, or any clinic in Manitoba, should ever be turned away without getting the help they need."

Manitoba Liberals say if a person detoxes from opioids, they lose tolerance and are at increased risk of overdose and death.

Other provinces like British Columbia and Alberta have already closed this gap. They are offering coverage for immediate OAT when needed and are seeing higher success rates at treating opioid addictions.


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