The Addictions Foundation of Manitoba says it's seen an increase in the number of people accessing treatment for methamphetamine addiction and looking for information about treatment — and in response, it's looking at how it can improve education and services for meth addiction.

"There is a need, and there is a need to change the way that services are delivered to better [meet] those needs successfully," said Catarina Witt, a policy analyst and communications co-ordinator for the AFM. 

Last year alone, 920 adults indicated upon intake with the foundation that they had used amphetamines, such as crystal meth, within the last year, Witt said, adding it's the third-most prevalent drug of choice among clients, behind cannabis and alcohol.

By the end of 2018, the organization expects the number of adults entering treatment for amphetamine use to be double the number they saw in 2014, Witt said.

She is part of a new AFM working group, formed in the fall, exploring possible changes to drug treatment programs and looking at ways to better serve clients struggling both with their addiction and with getting help.

"The gaps are the difficulty accessing treatment in a quick, immediate way and also the type of treatment that is being delivered in the residential settings," Witt said.

Long detox

She said possible changes to services under review include longer stays in detox and residential treatment settings, which typically last 21 days.

Other options under consideration include safe consumption sites and the creation of a safe place for people to go while they wait for a bed in residential treatment, after they've completed detox.

"When someone is coming off crystal meth it's a long time for their body to detox," said Witt. "Meth can be two to three weeks where you're seeing psychosis, depression and suicidal thoughts, so having somebody in a safe, restful place would be very, very helpful."

The AFM working group has put together resource packages about crystal meth for youth and adults which are available online.

The team is also considering a public education campaign to inform the community about methamphetamine addiction and the risks associated with it.

Witt said the AFM is also reaching out to community partners, such as schools and non-profits, where staff and volunteers have expressed an interest in learning how to help individuals who are using meth or are coming down from a high. 

"We are putting together training for other helpers in the communities," Witt said.

Witt underlines no firm decisions have been made with regard to changes in treatment and some efforts would require further funding. 

Health Minister Kelvin Goertzen was not available for comment. In a previous statement, a government spokesperson said the province continues to invest in addictions resources — including a $985,000 budget increase to the Addictions Foundation of Manitoba — and work is underway to develop a mental health and addictions strategy.

Immediate action needed: NDP

On Tuesday, Manitoba NDP Leader Wab Kinew called for "immediate action" from the province to combat methamphetamine use.

"It seems like every day there's another story across our province about families being impacted and hurt by this scourge of a drug epidemic," Kinew said. "People are dying, so we have to do better."

Kinew met Tuesday with Manitoba Finance Minister Cameron Friesen to go over his priorities for the upcoming provincial budget. He called for the Progressive Conservative government to commit more resources to increase the number of beds for drug treatment, crisis stabilization and harm reduction in the province.

Kinew said he has personally watched good friends and close relatives lose their lives to crystal meth. 

"I know there's a lot of good people in our city, with a lot of good ideas about how we can improve things," Kinew said. "But we need for that to be seen on the streets. We need for that to be seen in people's homes, where their relatives are struggling with addictions."