PCs seek federal funding for meth treatment in Manitoba
NDP contends government not working fast enough to secure available federal dollars.
The Manitoba government will ask Ottawa for funding to create more treatment beds to counter the growing meth crisis, health minister Cameron Friesen said.
The province was pressed Monday on its response to the epidemic after the NDP revealed an internal note briefing Friesen's predecessor on what to do with a new $150 million fund the federal government set aside for addressing the opioid crisis nationwide.
Asked specifically by reporters if he wants more treatment beds to accommodate users, Friesen replied, "yes."
"Capacity, we're looking for capacity," Friesen told reporters. "We're looking for meaningful investments that the federal government can help us with to make a difference in facility, in community."
Friesen wouldn't divulge his wishlist because his negotiations with the federal government is ongoing, he said.
He added the province's application has not been submitted yet.
Plan delayed, NDP allege
Earlier in the day, NDP leader Wab Kinew — who's long advocated for a safe injection site — accused the province of sitting on its hands, since the briefing note was written five months ago and no funding agreement is in place.
"People have been talking to them for months, for more than a year now, about the need to respond to the meth crisis here in Manitoba," Kinew said. "Why can't they come up with a plan to access these resources?"
British Columbia, Quebec, New Brunswick and Newfoundland have reached agreements, according to the federal government website.
In 2017, Manitoba experienced 122 apparent opioid-related deaths, 139 hospitalizations from opioid poisoning and 1,413 people suspected of an overdose arriving at Winnipeg Regional Health Authority facilities, the internal document said.
The one-time Emergency Treatment Fund promised by Ottawa is in response to the opioid crisis and other problematic substance use, excluding alcohol, cannabis and tobacco.
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Manitoba must come up with a plan to secure its share of the cash, estimated around $4.6 million.
Each province and territory has five years to match the funding, after the initial $250,000 investment by Ottawa.
Walk-in clinics, more beds
Deflecting criticism of inaction from the opposition parties, the province argued for weeks it is responding to the crisis with a familiar refrain: they've opened four walk-in rapid access clinics, added six more beds to Health Sciences Centre and 12 women's treatment beds at the Addictions Foundation Manitoba centre on Portage Avenue.
The government has thus far rejected calls for a safe injection clinic like the NDP wants, or a drug stabilization unit as the provincial Liberals would like.
Friesen said Monday his government is committed to helping those mired in substance abuse.
"We're working fast because we all understand how significant and how pressing this need is."