Manitoba

MPs learning lessons from Winnipeg addictions treatment facility

The head of a support program for men struggling with homelessness and addiction hopes a travelling committee of Parliamentarians get a better understanding of the city’s meth crisis after their visit to Winnipeg.

Members of federal health committee visited Morberg House on Tuesday

Morberg House on Provencher Boulevard provides beds for 12 men at a time. The home is staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week. (Lyzaville Sale/CBC)

The head of a support program for men struggling with homelessness and addiction hopes a travelling committee of Parliamentarians get a better understanding of the city's meth crisis after their visit to Winnipeg.

Seven members of the Standing Committee on Health — including Winnipeg Liberals Doug Eyolfson and Robert-Falcon Ouelette — are in the city Tuesday.

Marion Willis, founder of Morberg House and St. Boniface Street Links, hopes to shine a light on what is working in the world of addictions treatment, but also where the gaps exist in the system.

"I really want to not talk about Morberg House and St. Boniface Street Links. I want to talk about the need for a drug stabilization unit. That's what we need," said Willis, in an interview with Marcy Markusa, host of CBC Manitoba's morning radio show Information Radio.

Willis wants to see a 20-bed drug stabilization unit where patients can go on their own, as well as a secure facility where police can bring people.

"That would basically take it out of the emergency rooms and it would prevent police from actually having to just release people to libraries and to other public spaces because there is no other place for them," she said.

Authorities need to move away from the search for "best practices" and instead look for "impactful models," because what might be a best practice in one city might not be the most effective in another, said Willis.

"Maybe a best practice in the Downtown Eastside Vancouver might not be a best practice for Winnipeg Manitoba," she said. "What is impactful in a particular region, dealing with a particular circumstance?"

Marion Willis, founder and director of Street Links St. Boniface, wants to highlight what is working in field of addictions treatment, as well as where gaps exist. (Trevor Brine/CBC)

A key difference between Winnipeg and other cities in Canada is that the drug causing the most problems is not an opioid like fentanyl, but methamphetamine.

Morberg House is a 12-bed high-support facility that helps connect residents with mental health care and other services. The residents at Morberg House will share their stories with the Members of Parliament, Willis said.

"It's heartbreaking to realize how hard they have struggled to get just to find a way to even get to Morberg House to get the help that they need. You can't give what you don't got and it's just not out there for an awful lot of people," she said.

With files from Janice Grant

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