More questions raised over altered Manitoba addictions and mental health report
A report on Manitoba’s mental health and addiction services is being challenged after the government revealed it was altered in the weeks leading up to its release.
A draft of the report reviewing mental health and addiction services was released to reporters Monday morning and it included a recommendation for a safe injection site in Winnipeg.
But, in the final 279-page report, that recommendation disappeared.
The report from Virgo Planning and Evaluation Consulting was led by Dr. Brian Rush after months of consultations and reviewing documents and data.
The draft report was sent to the government on March 31, but six weeks later changes were made.
Minister of Health, Seniors and Active Living Kelvin Goertzen said he didn’t ask for the safe injection site recommendations to be removed.
“I understand yesterday there was a discussion that there was a dozen or so things that were discussed in terms of changes, I didn’t ask him to make any changes,” Goertzen said.
Dr. Brian Rush, who authored the report, said he removed the safe injection site recommendation because he didn’t have enough evidence to back it up.
Manitoba NDP leader Wab Kinew said the changes suggest someone from the government asked the report authors to alter it.
“Families in our province should be concerned that the care that their loved ones are going to get may not be as good as it could be, simply because of political interference,” Kinew said.
Political Scientist Christopher Adams said he’s written a few reports for the government and sometimes there is push back on recommendations.
“The report goes back and forth usually a few times,” he said.
“I do know that I’ve written reports for deputy ministers and departments on different issues related to labour market strategies, to education issues and I have had push back on certain recommendations and I’ve re-examined those recommendations.”
Adams said the type of back and forth on issues would be normal, like on a hot button issue such as safe injection sites.
“I can understand that where you submit a report with recommendations and you’re challenged by your client — saying ‘what’s the basis for this?’ and maybe he didn’t have sufficient information about it, so I give him the benefit of the doubt here, but also I do know the minister of health has been on record saying he doesn’t support the idea of safe injection sites at this time so clearly a recommendation like that would’ve received resistance from the client.”
Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman said the decision for safe injection sites is up to the province, but that he believes more needs to be done to help people with their addictions.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that we need greater treatment for those affected by addictions and substance abuse in Winnipeg,” Bowman said.
“Make no mistake about it, we have a meth and opioid crisis in Canada and it is on a scale of concern for families and for individuals who are affected by it.”
The final version of the report can be seen on the government’s website, while the version sent out earlier Monday morning can be seen below:
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