Winnipeg mayoral candidates offer differing approaches to address meth crisis

Three of Winnipeg's mayoral candidates offered ways to address the city's methamphetamine crisis on International Overdose Awareness Day.

Diack suggests 'correctional facility, with a doctor and staff', Motkaluk would expand Main Street Project

Signs outside Winnipeg City Hall on Friday, which is International Overdose Awareness Day. Methamphetamine was linked to 35 deaths in Manitoba in 2017. (Bartley Kives/CBC)

Three of Winnipeg's mayoral candidates offered ways to address the city's methamphetamine crisis on International Overdose Awareness Day.

Every Aug. 31, people who've lost friends or family to overdoses use the occasion to remember loved ones and demand more government action on addictions treatment. 

Several overdose-awareness-day events were held in Winnipeg on Friday, including a noon-hour ceremony in the courtyard at city hall.

Following the ceremony, mayoral candidate Tim Diack, a Winnipeg police officer, said if he's elected on Oct. 24, his main priority would be to build a secure methamphetamine-treatment intake facility with 50 to 100 beds.

"It'll look like a correctional facility with a doctor and staff," he said. "It won't be pleasant. It will be a jail."

Meth patients are too violent to leave alone, he said. 

"When people are in meth psychosis, we can't keep taking them to the hospital. We can't take them to the drunk tank. We can't take them home. We can't leave them alone," said Diack.

Mayoral candidate Tim Diack, a police officer, would build a secure methamphetamine-intake facility, if elected.

Diack said he has no cost estimate for such a facility, but said the expenditure would be worth it for the city.

"It's costing us millions of dollars not to treat the problem," he said, referring to police and fire-paramedic service costs.

Motkaluk: expand Main Street Project

Earlier Friday, business development consultant Jenny Motkaluk stood in Harrow Park in the Rockwood neighbourhood and promised to divert people high on meth away from hospitals and into the Main Street Project instead.

Motkaluk said hospitals are spending too much money treating and releasing methamphetamine users, who could undergo more thorough treatment at the Main Street Project. She said first responders could divert meth users to the downtown facility in a manner similar to how alcohol-intoxicated patients are diverted right now.

In order to make that happen, the Main Street Project would require a $100,000 methamphetamine treatment wing and $400,000 in additional annual funding, primarily for nurses, Motkaluk's campaign said.

She said the province should fund this, as it would save hospitals money, but said Winnipeg would go it alone on the costs if need be.

Work with government agencies: Bowman

Al Foster of the Main Street Project said the province would also have to change the Intoxicated Persons Detention Act before Winnipeg first responders can divert people high on meth away from hospitals.

The Main Street Project's Adrienne Dudek said not all meth users require police supervision and cited a need to destigmatize people who suffer from addictions.

Incumbent Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman, meanwhile, announced his intention to bring government agencies together to find a way to reduce the burden of dealing with meth patients for both police and health-care professionals.

A motion to that effect will come before council's executive policy committee on Sept. 12, the mayor's office said.