Winnipeg's meth crisis requires immediate action: advocates
Published Saturday, June 29, 2019 10:00PM EDT
Winnipeg’s mayor and local addictions advocates are demanding immediate action after a long-awaited report showed the urgency of the city’s methamphetamine crisis.
The Illicit Drug Task Force set up in December by the federal, provincial and municipal governments reported this week that charges for possession of meth were up 890 per cent from 2013 to 2017 while meth-related emergency department visits rose 1,700 per cent.
The task force issued 22 recommendations including 24-hour safe spaces for addicts, more treatment housing, and disrupting the drug supply. It stopped short of recommending safe-consumption sites, where people could legally take meth under medical supervision.
Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman told reporters on Friday that his first impression of the report was that there were “not enough specific, short-term actions outlined to implement immediately.” He reiterated his support for supervised consumption sites.
Marion Willis, who runs a 12-bed transitional residence for people facing addictions called Morberg House, said that she doesn’t believe safe-consumption sites are the answer, but she agrees that immediate action is needed, including funding for more housing.
Willis said she’s worried the provincial election set for Sept. 10 could put the issue on the backburner.
“I don’t really see anything happening now until 2020 and that’s the disturbing piece of this for me,” she said. “We need action right now.”
Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister said he “expects more investments” but didn’t offer any specifics.
Robert Lidstone, a resident of Morberg House, said the province needs to make sure that addicts don’t face long waitlists for detoxification or housing.
Lidstone was part-way through his PhD when he experienced mental health crisis and began using meth “as a way to cope with my struggles,” he said.
“That gradually got worse and worse to the point where I was wandering homeless in the middle of winter in Winnipeg.”
Lidstone said he believes it’s cheaper in the long run for the province to provide addicts with detox and housing than to jail them or pay their hospital bills.
“If you’re not somewhere like this, what are your other options?” he said. “It’s either jail or life on the street.”