Manitoba hasn't spent federal meth treatment money because of delay in request for proposals: health minister
Health minister disappointed complications snagged RFP for treatment beds, mobile units to fight meth
Manitoba's health minister was asked Thursday to answer for internal government documents that showed the province received $4.1 million from Ottawa last December to help people struggling with addictions — but has so far spent none of the money.
The government says it has been unable to issue a request for proposals for new treatment beds and mobile units to fight methamphetamine addiction.
Health Minister Cameron Friesen said the province was holding its share of the funding for the winning proponent of an the request for proposals, but four months later the process hasn't started.
"I became aware a few weeks ago that there was a delay on going to the RFP. I'm not pleased at all with that," Friesen said.
"I immediately got in contact with the department and with the regional health authorities involved. I have asked them for a detailed plan to get this back on track and out the door."
The initial request for proposals was supposed to go through the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority and Prairie Mountain Health, Friesen said.
The internal memos were obtained by the NDP through a freedom of information request.
The minister said bringing new forms of meth treatment to Manitoba has been an elaborate process.
"It's complex work and we're talking about treating methamphetamine in a new and flexible way," Friesen said. "That takes planning, it takes time, it takes physical space and it takes partners in order to deliver that work."
The province will match Ottawa's $4.1 million contribution, according to the terms of the agreement.
The funding is set aside for treatment beds for methamphetamine users and mobile withdrawal services in Winnipeg and Brandon.
The health minister said the $4.1 million contribution from the federal government would be spread out over four years, though the bilateral agreement states the money is being paid out in full and must be spent by 2023.
The beds are for individuals experiencing withdrawal symptoms that require a stay longer than the seven-day maximum allowed with the province's existing treatment beds.
Longer-term treatment has been identified as a gap in Manitoba's supports for people struggling with addictions.
The mobile units would typically include a nurse and addictions worker, a news release said.
At the announcement of the bilateral agreement last December, Friesen said he expects the new services will help at least 130 people a year, but the request for proposals would determine the number of beds being built and their location.
Dr. Ginette Poulin with the Addictions Foundation of Manitoba said the province must consider the time patients need for withdrawal, safety concerns and the aggression some people under the influence of meth may exhibit, before beginning the search for an outside firm.
"It is complex, because each of our systems are currently very siloed," she said.
From April to September of 2018, emergency departments and urgent care centres in Winnipeg examined more than 200 patients each month who were identified as having recently used meth — a number that has increased gradually since 2013.