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Winnipeg police, street groups see spike in drug use during pandemic
TORONTO -- In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, another crisis continues to harm vulnerable community members, although it’s largely hidden from view.
Winnipeg’s drug epidemic appears to have flourished, according to some advocates and local police.
Police have also reported a significant amount of seizures within the past two months caused by meth, fentanyl and cocaine. Officers told CTV News that since the start of lockdown measures, there hasn’t been a decrease in drug trafficking or use.
Outreach groups, such as the St. Boniface Street Links, are advocating for more treatment options and recovery resources for addicts in the city.
The advocacy group has also reported a surge in not only drugs, such as meth and fentanyl, but new users as well.
A representative with the St. Boniface Street Links told CTV News that there isn’t enough space within the current treatment centres in the city for physical distancing. Even their own housing facility, the Moberg House, has added three extra detox beds, but claim it isn’t enough to support those in need during the pandemic.
In Regina, reports also indicate that overdoses are on the rise. In the first weekend of May alone there were 29 overdoses, three of which were fatal.
While in Vancouver, there is concern that the ongoing pandemic is not allowing addicts to find safe supervised injection sites.
Dr. Jane Buxton, harm reduction lead at the British Columbia Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) said one of the reasons why few addicts search for help during the pandemic is because they are also practicing physical distancing.
However, other advocates say the pandemic has given addicts and homeless residents a more stable environment.
The Main Street Project in Winnipeg has been providing isolation housing for homeless COVID-19 patients or those who are showing symptoms of the virus.
“To be honest in the sheltering the manner we have, we have seen a more controlled use of substance,” said executive director Rick Lees.
While the pandemic continues, concern only grows as some advocates worry that the approaching warm weather will keep addicts on the street, rather than seek help at facilities.