Manitoba

'We're tired of waiting': Petition for faster access to addictions treatment gathers 5,000 signatures

The mother of a man who died of a fentanyl overdose nearly five years ago says she’s fed up with waiting for the province to provide immediate access to medically assisted detox facilities with a seamless transition to long-term treatment.

'We're tired of telling our sad stories,' Arlene Last-Kolb says

Arlene Last-Kolb delivered the petition with more than 5,000 signatures to the Manitoba Legislature, where it will be presented during question period on Tuesday. (Gary Solilak/CBC)

The mother of a man who died of a fentanyl overdose nearly five years ago says she's fed up with waiting for the province to provide immediate access to medically assisted detox facilities with a seamless transition to long-term treatment.

"We don't need more groups to talk about it. I don't need another health minister to talk to. I need to hear from our premier that he is listening to us, that he actually cares about this province and what is happening in it," Arlene Last-Kolb said.

Last-Kolb is part of a group that launched a petition last month calling for facilities throughout the province. It has more than 5,000 signatures gathered at locations across the province.

The NDP will present the petition to the Manitoba government during question period at the legislature Tuesday afternoon, with Last-Kolb in attendance.

Last-Kolb's son, Jesse Kolb, died in July 2014. Since then, she's worked with health officials and families impacted by addiction to try to expand access to treatment services in the province.

Jessie Kolb is seen here in one of Arlene Last-Kolb's favourite photos of her son. (Submitted by Arlene Last-Kolb)

Although progress has been made to reduce wait times for detox and residential treatment facilities, people in the province are still dying and relapsing while trying to get help, Last-Kolb said.

As of Dec. 31, the average wait time for a female patient to get into a provincially funded residential treatment program was 61 days, while for male patients it was 48 days, a provincial spokesperson said.

"We want a seamless system, one that is available immediately," Last-Kolb said. "The idea is that you would go into your medically assisted detox, and long-term treatment and ongoing supports, like just going through doors. It would all be together. There would not be any waiting between any of it."

Virgo recommendations

The petition comes one year after the province released its report on mental health care and addictions treatment in Manitoba, commonly referred to as the Virgo report after the company that produced it.

It detailed how poorly co-ordinated, underfunded mental health and addictions services in Manitoba lag behind the rest of the country and will take a long time to repair.

That report included 125 recommendations. In an emailed statement, the province said it has acted on 22 of those recommendations so far.

That includes opening five Rapid Access to Addictions Medicine (RAAM) clinics and doubling the number of treatment beds for women at the Addictions Foundation of Manitoba's Portage Avenue site from 12 to 24, the province's statement said.

Last-Kolb's petition launched April 18 and ran until May 15. The response shows there is widespread demand for a medically assisted detox facility, she said.

"We have a terrible problem going on in our province, and this petition tells that we're tired of waiting. We're tired of talks. We're tired of new groups being put together. We're tired of telling our sad stories."

With files from Alana Cole

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