Manitoba·Point of View

Grieving mother demands less talk, more action on addiction report

A grieving mother who lost her son to opioids says a task force report on addictions treatment requires immediate action, not another review.

Those who are hurting, put your pain into demanding this: we want these recommendations implemented now

Arlene Last-Kolb is calling for the province to spend money and implement recommendations borne out of the addictions task force. (Donna Carreiro/CBC)

In June 2019, a report into addiction services in Manitoba was released.

The report was based on findings by a task force comprised of provincial representatives, city services, the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority and non-profit organizations. It made 24 recommendations, including expanding the number of safe drop-in centres, better needle distribution and more long-term addictions treatment.

Arlene Last-Kolb lost her son to an opioid overdose in 2014. Here is her response to the new report.


Well, we finally have some results that make sense. 

These are the same things our very first task force asked for. Yet it has taken four years to get those who need to to start listening. 

We also have to have all three levels of government on board.

And we have to ask, "Who is going to pay for this and when will we implement those recommendations?"

Last-Kolb on the steps of the Manitoba Legislative Building, with her son Jessie's baseball cap by her side. (Donna Carreiro/CBC)

Because, again, we have been waiting more than four years. So unless we see quick action, this will not succeed. 

Every time a story comes out, it's like we're just starting. People upset, families upset that they weren't consulted. 

The thing is, we have been telling our stories for a long time. We have been working for change.

Every loved one matters to us. This is the reason this task force was made: because of our loved ones.

To to those families who are hurting, I say put your frustration, your anger, and your pain into demanding this: we want these recommendations implemented now.

We don't want to continue to tell our stories just to have our governments form more committees. 

Your continued excuses for not doing something are unacceptable...- Arlene Last-Kolb

Don't let them continue to answer, every time they are asked: "We're looking into it. It's complicated and we want to make sure our resources are going to the right thing."

Doesn't anyone else find this wrong? How can you keep saying that to parents after four years?

They should be ashamed of themselves and I will continue to call them out.

I will also call them out every time they ask families to share their "lived experience." 

I hate that saying. It's cruel.

This is not a "lived experience." This is my son, my family, that we are talking about. 

These are not 61 "lived experience" stories of people lost to substances. These are 61 loved ones. 

Don't put a label on me. Don't introduce me as "someone with lived experience."

I'm a mother who lost her son to a substance and I believe that it could have been prevented.

Your continued excuses for not doing something are unacceptable. 

Don't give them more time, which is what they want.- Arlene Last-Kolb

You know what to do. Spend some money and do it. 

There is no point in talking about Whispering Pines. We knew the owner. He passed away. He funded it. This was a man who wanted to help out, but with him gone, so is the treatment centre. 

Aurora Recovery Centre is still around, but it is a business. 

It is our government's responsibility to give us proper care, not private business. 
Last-Kolb hopes the province and health authorities require ER doctors to hand out naloxone kits to all overdose survivors. (Donna Carreiro/CBC)

It is our government that is holding back the help that we so desperately need. We cannot waver from what Manitobans want: medically assisted detox across Manitoba, with a seamless system of long-term treatment and ongoing supports. 

Don't give them what they want, which is more time. 

My hope is that, if we are still talking about this in August, everyone gets involved with International Overdose Awareness in Manitoba this August. 

We will be doing some different things and, you never know, maybe a rally is needed.

This column is part of CBC's Opinion section. For more information about this section, please read this editor's blog and our FAQ.

About the Author

My name is Arlene Last-Kolb. On July 18, 2014, we lost something very precious to us. Our 24-year-old son, Jessie, passed from a fentanyl poisoning. Since then I have chosen to spend my time educating, bringing awareness, and talking about compassion and the lack of proper treatment in Manitoba. I speak for those that can no longer speak for themselves.

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