Manitoba

Health minister not sure Main Street Project's safe injection site proposal is a fit for Winnipeg

Manitoba’s health minister says support for a proposal to create an expanded homeless and addictions centre in the former Mitchell Fabrics building on Main Street will depend on the availability of resources.

Main Street Project wants to expand into Mitchell Fabrics building on Main Street to open safe injection site

Manitoba Health Minister Kelvin Goertzen said there isn't a province in Canada that isn't struggling to match resources to the need for addictions treatment. (Jaison Empson/CBC)

Manitoba's health minister says support for a proposal to create an addictions centre in the former Mitchell Fabrics building on Main Street will depend on the availability of resources.

Officials with Winnipeg's Main Street Project hope to move into the building in order to open a safe injection site and to free up space at their existing Martha Street site to open a long-term crystal meth detox facility.

"Any time we get people coming from the community and bringing forward ideas for dealing with a significant addictions problem, which exists not just in Manitoba but across Canada, that's good," Health Minister Kelvin Goertzen said.

"The challenge, of course, we have is prioritizing those ideas."

Main Street Project wants to open a 10-bed detox centre to provide care for up to a year and also house mental health programs to help addicts deal with the issues around their addictions.

Main Street Project is looking at purchasing the Mitchell Fabrics building at Main Street and Logan Avenue to turn it into an innovative new homeless shelter that could house the city's first safe injection site. (Wendy Buelow/CBC)

It also hopes to open a safe injection site at the Mitchell Fabrics building. Goertzen, who had voiced his opposition to the idea of a safe injection site previously, reiterated his reasons for why he doesn't think the idea would work in Winnipeg.

"When we looked at the Manitoba statistics, it's different than you might see in Vancouver, where there's a high concentration of opioid users, for example, in a fairly small area," Goertzen said.

Opioid users will not necessarily get on a bus to go to a supervised injection site, he said.

"And in Manitoba, the vast majority of people that are dying from the use of opioids — more than 70 per cent, I understand — are dying at home. So they're not dying on the street, necessarily."

Goertzen said he received a report from consulting firm Virgo Planning and Evaluation, which was hired to review how addictions and mental health services can be better co-ordinated in Manitoba. He said he expects that report will be released publicly sometime in May.

"I think that that report will guide us in the right direction to using the resources that we have to deal with this," he said.

"There isn't a province in Canada that has immediate access, on-demand access for drug treatment. There isn't a province in Canada that isn't struggling to match up the resources with the need when it comes to addictions."

Manitoba's health minister is once again rejecting the idea of a safe drug injection site. The Main Street Project wants to convert the old Mitchell Fabrics building on Main Street into a facility for the homeless. Kelvin Goertzen says what works in Vancouver, where people with drug addictions gather, doesn't work in Winnipeg. 0:55

About the Author

Cameron MacLean

Web Writer

Cameron MacLean is a journalist living in Winnipeg, Man. where he was born and raised. He has more than a decade of experience covering news in the city and across the province, working in print, radio, television and online.

With files from Shane Gibson