Manitoba confirms at least 24 opioid-related deaths in 2016
Among the deaths, 9 confimed to have fentanyl in their systems, according to the province
Two dozen people have died in Manitoba with an opioid in their system, says Manitoba's Health Minister Kelvin Goertzen, and the number is expected to rise with outstanding toxicology reports yet to be completed.
"I'd … like to acknowledge the many lives that have been tragically impacting by addiction or death as a result of opioids such as fentanyl and carfentanil," he said to members of Manitoba's Legislature Tuesday.
Among the 24 deaths, fentanyl was deemed to be a primary cause or contributing factor in nine deaths.
The rate of opioid deaths in Manitoba is on track to be higher this year than last, Goertzen said.
The health minister outlined the province's plan to make naloxone, the overdose reversal drug, more widely available, launch public awareness campaigns and improve how the province tracks and reports overdoses.
He argued the federal government has a large role to play too.
Goertzen said Ottawa must do more to stop the flow of illegal fentanyl into Canada and restrict access to pill-making equipment.
"Every province is facing a tragedy of opioid addiction," he said.
NDP Health Critic Matt Wiebe called on Goertzen to declare a public health emergency to reflect the gravity of opioid abuse and not simply punt responsibility back to Ottawa to deal with it.
"With countless overdose calls every day we must see provincial action," said Wiebe. "This is a public health emergency and the government should acknowledge it as such."
The NDP MLA said the province should expand their naloxone distribution to include families and users of fentanyl, not just provide it to first responders.
Wiebe also said a family's advocate in the health care system should be created to speak up for the loved ones of people battling addiction.
Goertzen went as far as to call opioid use a crisis for those who have lost someone to an overdose and an emergency for those with an addiction but would not declare it a province-wide crisis or emergency.
Liberal MLA Cindy Lamoureux called on the province to improve addictions treatment and detox programs as well as provide better follow-up services for addicts.