NDP Urges Pallister Government to Launch Anti-opiate Strategy And Declare Public Health Emergency to Stem Fentanyl Crisis

The Pallister government must immediately declare a public health emergency to deal with the growing fentanyl crisis and establish an anti-opiate stra

tegy to stem the rising number of fentanyl-related deaths, NDP MLA Matt Wiebe said today.

“The number of overdoses and deaths related to the use of this highly potent opioid are continuing to increase dramatically across Canada and in Manitoba,” Wiebe said. “Last year, 29 deaths occurred in Manitoba as a result of fentanyl use. That’s nearly double the average rate over the five years from 2009 to 2013 and it’s devastating for the families affected by this epidemic.”

“Opiates are grabbing the minds of our youth with no means of escape!” said from Christine Dobbs, whose son, Adam Watson, died of a fentanyl-related overdose at the age of 27. “We have failed our children, who only wanted to fit in! We are not talking a few deaths, we are talking about a public health emergency .... we are talking about young people dying!”

In 2015, one fentanyl prescriptions was written for every two Canadians. Wiebe noted. Some of those prescriptions were diverted to the street trade. As well, illegal fentanyl is making its way into the country and being mixed with other illicit drugs in deadly doses. Officials in B.C. and Alberta have already declared public states of emergency to deal with the scourge, Wiebe said.

“The provincial government has a responsibility to ensure the safety, health, and wellbeing of families in Manitoba,” Wiebe said. “The illicit use of fentanyl will continue to affect families unless the provincial government acts quickly to deal with it.”

Wiebe urged the province to review prescription practices to prevent fentanyl being diverted from prescription use to illegal street use. He also called on the province to continue the former government’s investments in addressing these growing concerns, including expanding the naloxone distribution program.

“The province must reduce wait times for assessment and treatment services for fentanyl users and must improve information-sharing protocols between health-care professionals and law enforcement as determined by the fentanyl task force,” Wiebe said. “The government must expand distribution of naloxone kits, install safe needle drop boxes and build a safe injection site.”