Manitobans waiting months to access drug addiction treatment programs
Province has not increased funding for services, despite warning from police about opioid crisis
More than a year after police and health officials in Manitoba warned the public about the emergence of fentanyl and its dangers, people looking for help with drug addiction could be waiting months to access provincially-funded programs.
In November 2015, the wait time for addictions treatment in the province could be weeks, according to a provincial spokesperson, who added situations are reviewed on a case-by-case basis,
More recent numbers from the province are giving a more in-depth look at the issue.
More than 2 months' wait for bed in provincial program
That's despite the province acknowledging Canada's opioid crisis has arrived in Manitoba given the growing illegal use of fentanyl, with the creation of a task force.
The long wait lists for addictions help comes with news of another death due to a suspected fentanyl overdose.
"The addiction had him by the throat," said Kelly Hes of her son, Wesley Elwick. "But he never gave up trying and he did want to get better."
Elwick, 25, spent two days in the Health Sciences Centre for a nearly fatal drug overdose in October. When he was released, he was put in a cab and sent to a transitional housing facility, where he was found dead the next day. His parents question why he was released so quickly, without more support.
Hundreds waiting for AFM services
The Addictions Foundation of Manitoba said as of October, there were 427 people, about half in Winnipeg, on a waiting list for residential programs. One-hundred-and-twenty people, all but a handful in Winnipeg, are waiting for a spot in the AFN's opioid replacement therapy.
Manitoba Health Minister Kelvin Goertzen wasn't available to comment Wednesday on wait times for addictions treatment programs. Reporters asked him about funding for more beds for residential programs in November, however. He said he was waiting to see evidence of where money would be best utilized first.
Province waiting for information
Goertzen, who attended a national summit on the rise of opioids in Ottawa . Manitoba has committed to providing specialized education for service providers and parents, he said, as well as improving data collection in an effort to better target interventions and expanding a provincial naloxone distribution program.
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Jitender Sareen, health director of the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority's Mental Health Program, said it's important to try and speed up access for people with drug addiction who are looking for treatment, but an increase in demand is having an impact on services.
WRHA 'stressed' with demand for help
"I think there has been a clear increase in rates of addiction in Manitoba, but also nationally and so we are stressed as a system in trying to provide the care for the people that need it,' he said. "We are, as the WRHA, working with partners and community partners to look at our resources and try to provide more care as well as to use new methods for providing access."
Sareen said treatment for people facing opioid addiction can include the use of medications, along with psycho-social supports, physiological therapies and residential programs.
He said public education about issues surrounding drug addiction can also help improve treatment.
"I think it's really important to have the primary care physicians being more aware of opiate addiction," said Sareen. "How to both assess it and treat it, because they're the centre of providing care."