The rate of people seeking addictions treatment in Saskatchewan who self-report using methamphetamine has increased 10-fold in the past five years.
As discussed in the government’s human services committee meeting on April 29, officials indicate rates of addictions patients reporting crystal meth use in 2012-13 was about three per cent. That figure increased annually – reaching 30.58 per cent in 2017-18.
Ministry officials did not yet have 2018-19 statistics.
The opposition’s mental health and addictions critic Danielle Chartier accused the province of “burying their heads in the sand” on a growing meth crisis.
“People who work on the front lines, police, everybody has known about this growing crisis. It’s a huge issue and the resources that have been brought to bear in this budget are not going to solve this problem,” Chartier said.
Health Minister Jim Reiter said the province is taking the current meth crisis seriously – pointing to the province receiving clearance to also use Saskatchewan’s share ($5 million over five years) of the federal opioid emergency treatment fund for meth.
“Opioids are a big problem, but I would say right now it seems like the problem with crystal meth is more prevalent. We absolutely do need to do more, and that’s why you saw all the increases in mental health and addictions in the budget a few weeks ago,” Reiter said.
The 2019-20 budget saw mental health and addictions spending add $30 million, a total $402 million budget for the file.
This will include 50 new addiction beds for patients transitioning from detox and in-patient treatment or back into the community.
Work still needs to be done to determine where these beds will be located. Reiter said there will be a request for proposals (RFP) to determine where and when the beds will be established.
A physician will also be hired to act as a liaison between experts working on the science behind addictions and frontline workers. Reiter said he does not know a hard timeline on when this physician will be in place, but the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) is actively searching.
Through consulting with experts, Chartier said the province should be looking at longer treatment options due to how meth use can affect the brain.
“Crystal meth makes your dopamine levels spike and totally depletes them, so detoxing and recovering is a horrible, horrible experience I’m told. So we need to make sure people have the opportunity to not only seek treatment, but effective treatment,” Chartier said.
Reiter said the province is taking the issue of addictions seriously, and announcements will be coming in “short order” on the future of the 50 new treatment beds.