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No Calls in Manitoba for Safe Consumption Sites to Fight Meth Addiction

June 28, 2019 1:10 PM | The Canadian Press

By Steve Lambert, The Canadian Press

Cameron Friesen

Manitoba Finance Minister Cameron Friesen speaks about the 2018 budget during media lockup at the Manitoba Legislature in Winnipeg on March 12, 2018. A new report on methamphetamine use in Manitoba calls for more detox and treatment programs, but does not recommend safe-consumption sites. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/David Lipnowski)

WINNIPEG — Manitoba needs more detox facilities, longer-term treatment programs and a way to safely distribute needles to fight a rising tide of meth use, says a government-commissioned report.

The report, from a 17-member study group set up by the federal and Manitoba governments and the City of Winnipeg, stopped short of recommending a safe-consumption site for meth users.

“Supervised consumption sites can be part of a long-term approach … as one component of a harm-reduction strategy,” the report released Friday stated.

“They can also serve as pathways to treatment. It was the perspective of the (task force) that other foundational harm reduction activities require establishment, enhancement and expansion at present.”

The study group includes police, community groups and government representatives, and was set up last December in response to growing concerns about meth use in the province.

The number of people in publicly funded addictions programs who reported using meth more than doubled between 2014-15 and 2016-2017, the report said.

Michael Jack, one of the group’s co-chairs and Winnipeg’s chief corporate services officer, said there were “a number of voices” that had concerns about the idea of safe-consumption sites, but he would not identify them.

Some community groups, as well as the Opposition New Democrats, have pushed the idea.

But Health Minister Cameron Friesen said he remains skeptical, because safe-consumption sites in other jurisdictions are normally used for opioids.

“There is no injection site that was built for the administration of methamphetamines. I don’t even understand what the purpose would be,” Friesen said.

The report calls for an immediate increase in detox and treatment programs, more 24-hour safe spaces to get people off the streets, and an expansion of a Manitoba court program designed to address addictions issues.

It also urges the province to consider new legislation that would allow publicly intoxicated persons to be detained longer, because meth can take a long time to wear off.

Another recommendation is for centralized needle distribution and recovery to replace programs now spread out among regional health authorities and other bodies.

Friesen said he is looking at all the recommendations and accepts the need for more treatment space.

“Clearly in the areas that are calling for capacity-building … we accept these things. More investments are needed.”

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