Today, the Office of the Leader of the Opposition released its report “We Have to Start Here”: Addressing the Root Causes of Manitoba’s Addictions Crisis and Reducing Harm from Problematic Meth Use to the public. The report is the result of primary research interviews with a variety of professionals involved in the addictions sector. It presents to the provincial government a number of recommendations to address addictions issues in Manitoba.
“We see firsthand the impacts of meth use, from increased violent crime and outbreaks of blood-borne infections,” said Opposition Leader Wab Kinew. “But it is important to understand this is part of a long term addictions crisis Manitoba is facing. After listening to experts we are proposing real solutions to help Manitoba families.”
“We Have to Start Here” reinforced an urgent, substantial need for expanded addictions treatment and prevention in Manitoba. Limited access to affordable detox and treatment, increasing pressure on law enforcement and front-line health care as well as little to no prevention tools for families has created a crisis situation in the province.
The report reviewed addictions research and drew from interviews with respondents sourced from Manitoba’s addictions sector. Respondents include public health officials, physicians, psychiatric nurses, academics, law enforcement, front-line service organizations, community organizations and families of addicts.
The report lays out two potential strategies to stem substance abuse in Manitoba. The first is a comprehensive plan that addresses the root causes of addictions. The scond is a medium-term plan focused on harm reduction, prevention and treatment. Respondents condemned the Pallister government’s current strategy as a series of one-off policy announcements driven purely by media coverage and lacking the long term impact needed to address the issue.
“Experts tell us that to fight crystal meth and other addictions we have to first fight poverty and other social problems that cause addictions. If not, we will simply be treating the symptoms and allowing the disease of addictions to get worse and worse,” said Kinew. “The Pallister government is more concerned about their own political reputation than helping families caught in addiction’s vicious cycle.”
“We Have to Start Here” makes several recommendations to the provincial government for financial investments and governance initiatives including:
- Immediately increase RHA’s budgets for clean needle and supplies;
- Increase the number of long term treatment beds available in Winnipeg;
- Establish one or more safe consumption sites in Winnipeg that provide holistic support and treatment for users;
- Extend and expand after-hours community programs to minimize the social isolation that leads to drug use;
- Transition away from abstinence based education models for students and families towards one centered on harm reduction;
- Strengthen treatment programs by tailoring to Indigenous, LGBTQ2S*, and gendered drug users;
- Fund drug treatment research including specialized support for relapsed or long time users.
The report is available to the public online and will be forwarded to the provincial Health Minister for his review.