'Something is fundamentally wrong': Former addict says Windy Sinclair's death shows changes needed

A former addict says the death of Windy Sinclair should be a wake up call about the need for improvements to the services and resources available for those living with addictions in Winnipeg.

Robert Lidstone says Winnipeg needs 24/7 detox centres for addicts

The death of Windy Sinclair, who was found dead and frozen days after she left a hospital before receiving care Christmas Day, has raised concerns about the level of services available for addicts in Manitoba. (Submitted/Chantelle Dreaver)

A former addict says the death of Windy Sinclair should be a wake-up call that Winnipeg needs to have more resources available to help people with addictions. 

Windy called 911 and was taken to Seven Oaks General Hospital by ambulance on the evening of Christmas Day after using crystal meth earlier in that day.

But the 29-year-old left the hospital before being discharged and after her family reported her missing and searched for days, her body was found frozen near a West Broadway apartment building Dec. 28.

There was an extreme cold warning at the time of her disappearance and police are not investigating her death as a homicide.

Robert Lidstone, who is recovering from a meth addiction, says he knows from experience how hard it is to get support in Winnipeg, and says Windy's death should raise alarm bells.

"I think that what this very tragic death reinforces is that we need an emergency detox service in this province — something that is 24/7," he said, adding he has also left hospitals while high on meth. "It is a drug that can lead to some pretty serious paranoia and if a person is in that state of mind they may try to leave whatever facility that they're put in.

"But we can still try to support them in an appropriate way and be there for them when they are of clear enough mind to get help."

Lidstone says Manitoba should look to Ontario, which has had detox centres for years.

He says when he lived in Toronto he could call a phone number day or night and be connected to the nearest detox centre with space available.

Former meth addict Robert Lidstone says the death of Windy Sinclair shows the need for 24/7 detox centres in Manitoba. (CBC)

"I'd be admitted on the spot," he said. "They had a section where people could come and sleep it off, and that is all some people are there to do."

After having a safe place to stay at the detox centres Lidstone, who struggled for years as a meth addict before learning he had bipolar disorder, says patients could connect with a doctor or mental health services.

"When services are configured in that way I think that it potentially avoids the kind of tragedy that we saw in the past couple weeks," he said. "Something is fundamentally wrong with our approach to mental health."

Looking for answers

Sinclair's mother, Eleanor Sinclair, is looking for answers about how her daughter was allowed to leave the hospital, and why she wasn't being monitored. She also wants to know why police weren't contacted when her daughter left the hospital in a vulnerable state. 
Eleanor Sinclair shows a photo of her daughter, Windy Sinclair. (Holly Caruk/CBC)

She said was told the phone number staff used to try to contact family hasn't been in use for 10 years. She said she gave paramedics her current phone number when they took her daughter to the hospital, and was assured that Windy would be sent home in a cab.

The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority has said they are investigating and say Windy had received treatment within an hour of her arrival, but left sometime before 11:30 p.m. while staff were waiting for tests.

Eleanor met with officials from the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority Thursday and said her questions weren't answered, although officials did tell her Windy was two months pregnant when she died.

"Nothing, no answers at all. Instead they tell me I lost a grandchild," she told CBC News.

Réal Cloutier, interim president and CEO of the WRHA, says Windy Sinclair's death is under review. (CBC)

Réal Cloutier, interim president and CEO of the WRHA, said Friday the health authority is reviewing what happened in Windy's case, but wouldn't release any details, including whether or not a Code Yellow — the alert sent through hospitals when a patient goes missing — was used after Windy left hospital, until the investigation is complete.

"In respect to the family we have to complete our review, share the information with them first, and then obviously there will be more discussion once our review is done," he said. "It's a tragic situation and we will be reviewing the situation and make sure that we understand what happened and what changes we could make."