‘It’s a slap in the face’: Manitoba doubles down against supervised consumption sites

The province is cementing its approach on addictions care in Manitoba by reinforcing a commitment to treatment and long-term recovery while opposing supervised consumption sites.

The announcement comes after Mental Health and Community Wellness Minister Sarah Guillemard toured supervised consumption sites in Vancouver’s East Hastings neighbourhood earlier this week.

In a release Wednesday, Guillemard said, “jurisdictions that have formalized supervised consumption sites are not seeing reductions in drug use or overdose deaths.”

Community organizations like the Manitoba Health Coalition argue the opposite.

“Supervised consumption sites are about saving lives. It is the difference between today and tomorrow and the opportunity for new choices for so many people,” Thomas Linner, Manitoba Health Coalition’s provincial director, told CTV News.

Linner calls the province’s stance on supervised consumption sites ‘heartbreaking’ and said it will only further the opioid crisis happening in Manitoba.

“It’s a slap in the face to the people who are doing the work on the ground, with people who are addicted, people who both use drugs, people in vulnerable situations,” Linner said.

Last week, more than 80 community organizations around the province penned a letter to all three levels of government demanding more funding and resources to combat the crisis. The calls to action included authorizing supervised consumption sites.

“To hear that the province wants to take that off the table is certainly disappointing,” Manitoba Harm Reduction Network’s executive director Shohan Illsley told CTV News.

Illsley said the province needs to address the toxic drug supply and overdose crisis happening now.

“We need a response that’s going to support our relatives who are not ready for treatment or our relatives who are not interested in treatment,” Illsley said.

Long-term recovery providers – like the Bruce Oake Recovery Centre, which opened last fall – say the province’s commitment to treatment is promising.

“We’ve had 114 individuals complete the four-month program already – and we’re seeing incredible life transformations take place,” said Greg Kyllo, executive director of Bruce Oake Recovery Centre.

Kyllo said there are more than 200 people on the waiting list, highlighting the need for more funding across the board.

“It certainly demonstrates the need and demand for the treatment we know that is available and works,” Kyllo said.

He recognizes the need for short-term solutions and says all stakeholders in addiction care must come together.

“It’s not our approach or someone else’s approach. It’s putting the person first and the people that are out there who need help.” 

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