Manitoba orders 1,000 naloxone kits to address fentanyl deaths

The number of deaths linked to the powerful opioid fentanyl is on the rise in Manitoba and the government said Friday part of its response includes ordering some 1,000 overdose-reversal kits.

Overdose reversal kits to be delivered to sites across the province, says health minister

Naloxone kit contains two vials, syringes, gloves, alcohol swabs and instructions. (CBC)

The number of deaths linked to the powerful opioid fentanyl is on the rise in Manitoba and the government said Friday part of its response includes ordering some 1,000 overdose-reversal kits.

Naloxone kits mitigate the deadly risks associated with fentanyl, said Health Minister Kelvin Goertzen, but they do not provide a "safety net" for people who use the opioid to get high.

Naloxone is an antidote that reverses the effects of an opioid and can save a person's life.

Health Minister Kelvin Goertzen announced Friday the province is expecting an additional 1000 overdose-reversal kits to be available to sites across the province by the end of January. (courtesy Shaw TV)

"Part of the overall effort involves harm reduction and the availability of naloxone," Goertzen said.

This week, Winnipeg's Street Connections distributed a total of 191 kits. The government said 22 kits have been used since the beginning of the year. 

Five hundred additional kits have been ordered and will be delivered by mid-December while the rest, another 500, will arrive in January.

"Training is underway currently so that proper information can be provided at these sites," Goertzen said.

Other than Street Connections, the minister's office said it could not release information about which sites would receive the kits.

Along with ordering the kits, the province has sent out 1,500 information posters to schools, community centres and clinics about the dangers of fentanyl. The Addictions Foundation of Manitoba is also providing training sessions on the drug.

Already, Goertzen said, the AFM has provided a training day on the dangers of fentanyl to 450 school counselors and police officers.

Province expects up to 170 deaths 

Last year, 151 people in Manitoba died from drug overdoses, said Goertzen and this year the number is projected to rise 9 per cent to somewhere between 165 and 170 deaths.

"A greater proportion of those overdose deaths is expected to be from fentanyl this year than in past years," Goertzen said.

"Behind each of these numbers is someone's son, daughter, mother or father."

NDP Health Critic Matt Wiebe called on the government to take steps to restrict pill presses that illicit drug manufacturers use to combine fentanyl with other drugs. The province is currently lobbying the federal government to restrict the sale of the presses.

Wiebe reiterated his call for the Progressive Conservatives to declare fentanyl use a "public health emergency."

Liberal MLA Jon Gerrard called on the province to reveal its plan for dealing with fentanyl addiction in rural and remote areas. (courtesy Shaw TV)

"As the statistics pile up it bears out the anecdotal [information] that we've been hearing from families, frontline workers and first responders," Wiebe said.

"More must be done to get this drug off our streets and give support to users."

Liberal MLA and medical doctor Jon Gerrard praised the province for launching a fentanyl awareness campaign but agreed with Wiebe that Manitoba needs to improve addiction services.

"We are in a crisis and we need to do more," Gerrard said.

He also called on the government to release its plan for dealing with fentanyl in remote and rural areas in the province.

"How many lives will be lost before such a plan is in place?" he asked.