COVID-19 forces Winnipeg’s Main Street Project, Salvation Army to reduce addictions services

Winnipeg’s Main Street Project says it had to temporarily close its men’s detox program for several days because of COVID-19-related staff shortages.

In a social media post Wednesday, the charity says it was a “very temporary emergency closure,” and the program reopened Wednesday.

“Staff shortages due to COVID-19 is our reality today. This dilemma is challenging the entire health sector across Manitoba,” the Facebook post said.

“To keep up with increasing demand, MSP has been rapidly but diligently hiring, training and deploying new staff to support our operations, our team, our clients and programs.” 

Other addictions services are being interrupted because of the pandemic.

The Salvation Army’s Anchorage program — a residential treatment program for people with addictions — is currently on hold, according to Maj. Gordon Taylor, the executive director of the Winnipeg Centre of Hope.

He says the decision was made to stop group programming in order to protect participants and staff.

“We hope group programming can resume in the near future,” he said in an email.

Meanwhile, Re:Act — a day program that offers trauma-informed counselling through addiction treatment programs in Winnipeg — has had to make changes to stay open.

Tim Fletcher, the founder and president of the program, says the group counselling sessions have split into smaller, physically distanced groups, while some counselling sessions are now online.

“There’s lots of addictions issues, mental health issues, domestic violence issues…. Everybody’s struggling,” he said, adding there’s been about a 30 per cent increase in relapse during the pandemic.

MLA Bernadette Smith is calling for more supports for people who are homeless during the pandemic, including further government support for Main Street Project’s detox program. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

NDP MLA Bernadette Smith, who represents Point Douglas, raised the closure in question period at the Manitoba Legislature Tuesday.

She called on the provincial Progressive Conservative government to step in to ensure resources are available to allow people to continue detox programs. She also said the province should invoke emergency measures for the homeless population in general.

Families Minister Heather Stefanson said the province is working with the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority to ensure there are isolation spaces for people who are homeless.

The province opened dozens of beds at shelters early in the pandemic to help those experiencing homeless self-isolate if needed.

On Wednesday, Manitoba Shared Health Chief Nursing Officer Lanette Siragusa released details on capacity at the province’s isolation spaces for homeless or at-risk people.

The first site, which has 39 spots, is full, and a second space, with 22 spots, is near capacity, she said. A third site, with 140 spots, will open soon.

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