Manitoba on pace to exceed drug-overdose deaths in 2021

Click to play video: 'Manitobans honour loved ones on National Overdose Awareness Day' Manitobans honour loved ones on National Overdose Awareness Day
Dozens of people gathered at the Legislature to mark international drug overdose awareness day. As Global's Abigail Turner tells us, nearly every person at the rally has a personal connection to a loved one taken too soon – Aug 31, 2021

This year is on pace to be another devastating one for drug-related deaths, according to Manitoba’s Chief Medical Examiner’s Office.

From January until April, there were a total of 129 drug overdose deaths in Manitoba — a number on pace to exceed 2020’s total, where 372 people died due to drug overdoses.

As Tuesday marked National Overdose Awareness Day, family members who attended Manitoba’s event at the legislature steps called on the government to take action.

“There’s a lot of things the government can be doing. We’re advocating for safe supply, we’re advocating for more Narcan availability,” said Shelly Taillieu, whose daughter Destiny died in 2018 due to an accidental fentanyl poisoning.

Pictured: Destiny Taillieu
Pictured: Destiny Taillieu. Submitted

A total of 1,162 purple ribbons lined the steps of the legislature building, each one representing a person who died due to overdose in the past five years, including Taillieu’s daughter.

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“When my daughter passed away, she was waiting for a rehab bed. It was December 15, she was waiting for a rehab bed and she died November 4 and she was two weeks out of detox. So detox and rehab beds need to be together,” Taillieu said.

Read more: Drug overdose deaths spiked 87 per cent in Manitoba last year

Arlene Last-Kolb, the co-founder of Manitoba’s Drug Overdose Awareness group whose son died seven years ago due to fentanyl, says it’s frustrating that the number of deaths continues to increase.

“Seven years later, we cannot just be talking about detox treatments, more beds, extended RAM clinic hours, not when they’re dying from something they’re buying on streets.”

Earlier this month, the province confirmed there is a shortage of naloxone, the drug used to lessen the effects of an opioid overdose, in Manitoba.

Read more: Manitoba campaign aims to show faces behind drug overdose crisis

“Why does a government run out of a life-saving antidote, naloxone, after we just came off the worst year possible? … How does that happen? I don’t understand that,” says Last-Kolb.

Taillieu said her daughter was working on her second university degree to become a social worker. She wants people to realize that there shouldn’t be stigma associated with overdoses.

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“She would help people even when she was using. Like, she would give them her last dollar, her last $5, she was someone like that who was caring, considerate, the more loving person in the world,” said Taillieu.

“She lost her life and she didn’t have to.”

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