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‘Left behind’: Addiction moves far beyond city limits in Saskatchewan

Click to play video '‘Left behind’: Addictions crisis moves far beyond city limits' ‘Left behind’: Addictions crisis moves far beyond city limits
WATCH: "Any town across Saskatchewan is dealing with this with just a lot less resources," a small-town nurse says – Jul 17, 2020

Saskatchewan’s biggest cities have seen bleak overdose numbers in recent weeks, sounding alarm bells about the increasing dangers of addiction.

Advocates in the major centres have repeatedly said they don’t have adequate resources to respond — but they’re not the only ones who feel they’ve been left empty-handed.

“Saskatoon and Regina seem to be the ones that get the spotlight on them,” said Kamsack Mayor Nancy Brunt. “We’re getting left behind.”

Read more: Methamphetamine use on the rise, city in ‘crisis’: AIDS Saskatoon

In the 25 years that Brunt has lived in the small town near the Manitoba border, she has never seen open drug use and addiction as rampant as it is now.

“Kamsack has its issues, but they’re no different from any other small town in Saskatchewan,” she told Global News.

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A nurse who works in Kamsack’s six-bed emergency room said she sees patients struggling with addictions and mental illness every day. She sees overdoses monthly.

“We are in a crisis,” said registered nurse Delaney Murphy.

“Any town across Saskatchewan is dealing with this with just a lot less resources.”

People told to get treatment in the city

The community of about 1,900 people has a needle exchange and a methadone clinic, but Murphy said that doesn’t cut it, as many patients are told to get treatment in the city.

“If you’re not ready (and) you don’t have the right system in place, then you might have missed your opportunity for (a patient) to get the right treatment,” she said.

In a statement to Global News, a spokesperson for Saskatchewan’s health ministry said the province’s income support program could help cover transportation costs.

Read more: Saskatchewan police forces say health approach needed if drug possession is decriminalized

The spokesperson also noted there are dozens of addictions and mental health services scattered across the province. Kamsack’s mayor said those aren’t sufficient.

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The town needs more psychiatric nurses, addictions counsellors and a mobile crisis unit, which could be shared with nearby communities, Brunt said.

“We don’t need them in the numbers and amounts that cities do,” she said.

“We can’t have everything, but we can sure share with other people.”

The healthy ministry said it’s committed to funding addictions and mental health services, investing $435 million in the latest budget.

It said the money will fund services for youth and increased access to treatment beds across the province.

‘A reckoning coming’

Brunt and Murphy were featured in a documentary by the Saskatchewan Union of Nurses (SUN), meant to bring rural addictions and mental health to the fore.

SUN president Tracy Zambody said Kamsack offers a “snapshot” of the rural crisis.

“Addictions and mental health don’t care where you live,” she said.

“We have a reckoning coming at us full speed ahead.”

Going forward, she said the province needs to consult with small communities to find out what services they need.

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Click to play video 'Saskatchewan police forces say health approach needed if drug possession is decriminalized' Saskatchewan police forces say health approach needed if drug possession is decriminalized
Saskatchewan police forces say health approach needed if drug possession is decriminalized – Jul 16, 2020