Manitoba to fight fentanyl with public awareness campaign

The Manitoba government has launched a public awareness campaign about the dangers of fentanyl.

Emergency crews deal with 7 suspected opioid-related deaths over 9 weeks in Winnipeg

Even the smallest amount of fentanyl and carfentanil can be fatal, Winnipeg firefighter-paramedics say. (UFFW)

The Manitoba government has launched a public awareness campaign about the dangers of fentanyl.

"This isn't just a government problem and government alone can't solve this problem. We need your help," Health Minister Kelvin Goertzen told a room full of students at Shaftesbury High School on Friday.

"We need all Manitobans across our province. We need neighbours talking to neighbours and friends talking to their friends, and we need students talking to peers in school."

Justice Minister Heather Stefanson, fire Chief John Lane, police Chief Danny Smyth and Goertzen launched the provincewide social media awareness campaign with a kickoff event at Shaftesbury.

In the last nine weeks there have been seven suspected opioid-related deaths in Winnipeg, and statistics from the Manitoba Office of the Chief Medical Examiner show the number of deaths linked to fentanyl has nearly doubled in the last two years.

Police, firefighters, paramedics and politicians have in recent weeks described the fentanyl situation in the city as a crisis, an epidemic, frightening, shocking, scary and tragic.​

Goertzen told students at Shaftesbury that he has spent the past few weeks meeting parents of youth who have died from overdoses.

"[Parents] told me how they were sports stars and they told me how they always had a smile on their face and it was taken away either through addiction or because they took something that was laced with fentanyl or carfentanil and died from it," he said.

The Manitoba government has launched a public awareness campaign about the dangers of fentanyl. 1:45

"To the students here today, I'd love to meet your parents someday, but I don't want to meet them that way."

Stefanson implored students to do more to watch out for each other.

"I hope that you'll be part of a solution down the road to ensure that we don't have to deal with these kinds of deaths that unfortunately [we] have dealt with already."

The United Fire Fighters of Winnipeg, whose paramedics say they are now seeing opioid overdoses on a daily basis, launched its own public awareness campaign last week.

"Our crews have never seen anything like what they're seeing these days," fire and paramedic Chief Lane said.

"In the fire and paramedic business, there's really no truer saying than an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."

Smyth said young people can help prevent future opioid overdose deaths.

"One of the more important tools you have that many of us didn't have growing up is the power of social media," he said.

"You have access to more information and the ability to share more information than anybody else has had in history. This is one of those times where it's important to use your ability on social media to share that information and help our community deal with this problem."

The effects of fentanyl range from pleasure to death. This video breaks down exactly what the drug does to your brain. 1:47