'Nobody there to help': Parents of children with meth addiction feel left out of illicit drugs report

Two mothers of adult children in recovery for meth addiction say they feel left out of a report by the illicit drugs task force that makes recommendations about how Manitoba can better respond to drug abuse and, in particular, meth use. 

Families 'desperately' need support with emotional, financial burdens, mother says

Joy Lywak, left, and Pat Horsley, right, both have adult children who are recovering from meth addiction. (Thomas Asselin/CBC)

Two mothers of adult children in recovery for meth addiction say they feel left out of a report by the illicit drugs task force on how Manitoba can better respond to drug abuse and, in particular, meth use. 

"I'm suffering from trauma. I don't sleep. I've lost weight. My patience is gone," said Joy Lywak, whose 28-year-old daughter is one month sober from meth addiction. 

The task force — comprised of provincial representatives, city services, the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority and non-profit organizations — made 24 recommendations Friday. They include expanding the number of safe drop-in shelters, better co-ordinating needle distribution and expanding the capacity of Winnipeg's drug treatment court.

Lywak and fellow parent Pat Horsley say one area that appears forgotten are parents and families who shoulder a heavy financial and emotional burden helping their children address addiction and its consequences, from paying off drug debts to wondering whether the next phone call they get will tell them their child is dead. 

"We need [help]. We desperately need it," Lywak said.

Lywak said she recently received a letter from Health Sciences Centre that told her the wait time for her to get an appointment with a psychologist was three years.

"You feel terrible, just terrible that there's nobody there to help."

Kalen Qually, a spokesperson for the City of Winnipeg, said there are several recommendations in the report which, if acted upon, the task force believes would provide "impactful supports for families of victims."

"For example, culturally appropriate recreation opportunities for children and youth, safe and secure affordable housing for participants, and enhanced detoxification strategies would all contribute to relieving the challenges that families of victims are burdened with," Qually wrote in an email.

Horsley estimates she's spent "tens of thousands of dollars" to pay for her 29-year-old son to travel to British Columbia for long-term treatment because she couldn't find anything like that in Manitoba.

Joy Lywak and Pat Horsley say the longest program they could afford in Winnipeg for their kids was a 28-day program. (Thomas Asselin/CBC)

The longest program Horsley and Lywak could find in the province was a 28-day program run by the Addictions Foundation of Manitoba.

One of the recommendations in Friday's report was to create long-term recovery options for people with meth addiction.

"Currently there are limited supportive long-term programs in Manitoba," the task force found. "Success rates in supportive abstinence based housing increases significantly when comparing a 28-day program to a 365-plus-day program."

Both Horsley and Lywak are pleased with the task force's recommendation for more long-term treatment. They say the government should work with organizations like Finding Freedom and Morberg House so they can provide more long-term options to more people.

"We need to be supporting programs like that in order to be addressing this crisis in our city," said Horsley.

In British Columbia, Horsley's son is involved in a three-to-five-month program which includes both aftercare and transitional housing to help him reintegrate into the job force, she said.

Lywak said if something like that existed here, her daughter would sign up. She has already been through the Addictions Foundation of Manitoba's 28-day program three times. Each time she relapsed.


Laura Glowacki is a reporter based in Ottawa. Previously, she worked as a reporter in Winnipeg and as an associate producer for CBC's Metro Morning in Toronto. Find her on Twitter @glowackiCBC and reach her by email at