‘Significant’ plans in the works to handle meth crisis: Province of Manitoba

Manitoba Health Minister Cameron Friesen says a meth strategy is in the works. File / Global News

As part of an in-depth investigation into the city’s ongoing meth crisis, Global News / 680 CJOB journalists Richard Cloutier and Joe Scarpelli were given exclusive behind-the-scenes access to the people on the front lines in the fight against meth. This is the fourth of a four-part series. 

Read part 1 here
Read part 2 here
Read part 3 here

Manitoba’s health minister says the provincial government is working on a “significant” plan to address the local meth crisis, although details of what that will look like, specifically, have yet to be revealed.

“It’s clear there are no easy answers,” Cameron Friesen told Global News. “This dilemma that faces us now has come up very rapidly and we’ll work rapidly to respond.

“We know that this issue is hitting us right now. We know that we have a responsibility to respond. We take this issue very seriously and we’re going to do that hard work and present a plan to Manitobans.”

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WATCH: ‘People don’t understand’: Meth is tearing families apart

Click to play video: 'Winnipeg’s Meth Crisis Part 4:  Families Torn Apart' Winnipeg’s Meth Crisis Part 4: Families Torn Apart
Winnipeg’s Meth Crisis Part 4: Families Torn Apart – Oct 5, 2018

According to statistics from the Winnipeg Fire and Paramedic Service, the Manitoba Nurses Union, and the Addictions Foundation of Manitoba, meth use continues to skyrocket in the region.

Thursday afternoon, the province announced a $350,000 investment in the Winnipeg Police Service, dedicated to specialized resources when it comes to fighting the drug trade.

“Police officers require specialized tools, resources and training to help reduce the risks associated with their jobs, especially the dangers of drugs such as methamphetamine,” said justice minister Cliff Cullen.

“These strategic investments help ensure Winnipeg police can adapt and respond to the needs of the community, while also supporting officer safety.”

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According to a press release, funding for these resources – which include replacing four self-contained breathing apparatuses used by officers in the clandestine lab unit – comes from the province’s Criminal Property Forfeiture Fund.

READ MORE: Ongoing meth crisis has personal cost for all Winnipeggers

Winnipeg mayor Brian Bowman told Global News the city is interested in collaborating with the other levels of government to make any necessary changes to put a stop to the meth crisis.

Bowman said the city hasn’t been privy to the full scope of the province’s plans, but remains eager to work with the provincial government.

Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods

“There’s absolutely a need for provincial, federal and municipal governments to sit in the same room and better coordinate our strategies,” said Bowman. “The provincial government, of course, is ultimately responsible for health.

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“The city of Winnipeg, we’re kind of that last resort, especially with our policing.

“When people aren’t getting the treatment that they need, ultimately it’s our police service and taxpayers that are picking up the tab when the system hasn’t worked for the people that need help.”

Police have been inundated with meth calls recently, dealing with everything from property crime to assaults against their own officers.

READ MORE: Nurse punched in the face by man believed high on meth, says Manitoba Nurses Union

The problem has become a talking point in the upcoming civic election. Mayoral candidate Jenny Moktaluk, one of seven Winnipeggers hoping to unseat Bowman in the Oct. 24 election, said a more effective strategy is needed, and that if elected mayor, she’d create a dedicated police meth task force.

She also said Thursday she’d have a meth-specific detention unit at the Main Street Project for people coming off a high.

“Having a facility to take people who are high on meth will go a long way toward freeing up the resources,” she said. “If we build one – and it’s going to have some limit to its capacity –  and we determine we need a greater limit, then we’re going to have to take a look at adding to it.”

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Anyone needing help can call the Manitoba Addictions Helpline at 1-855-662-6605.

WATCH: A look at Manitoba’s meth crisis through paramedic eyes
Click to play video: 'A look at Manitoba’s meth crisis through paramedic eyes' A look at Manitoba’s meth crisis through paramedic eyes
A look at Manitoba’s meth crisis through paramedic eyes – Oct 4, 2018

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