Gov­ern­ments pledge $8.4-mil­lion to fight meth cri­sis

The Globe and Mail (Alberta Edition) - - NEWS - KELLY GERAL­DINE MALONE

Man­i­toba and the fed­eral gov­ern­ment are pledg­ing a com­bined $8.4-mil­lion to tackle the prov­ince’s grow­ing metham­phetamine cri­sis.

Man­i­toba Health Minister Cameron Friesen said meth ad­dic­tion is cre­at­ing dif­fer­ent problems than other drugs be­cause the high can last for hours and, in some cases, days. It also takes much longer to get clean.

“Who­ever I talk to says meth is dif­fer­ent,” Mr. Friesen said on Fri­day. “It is not like other il­licit drugs that pro­fes­sion­als have en­coun­tered be­fore.”

Num­bers from Win­nipeg’s health au­thor­ity show there has been a 1,200 per cent in­crease in peo­ple go­ing to hospi­tals be­cause of metham­phetamine – from 12 in April, 2013 to 218 this past April.

An ad­vi­sory note to the health minister ob­tained by the Man­i­toba New Demo­cratic Party through a free­dom-of-in­for­ma­tion re­quest in Oc­to­ber said the num­ber of peo­ple en­ter­ing treat­ment at pub­licly funded cen­tres for meth ad­dic­tion had in­creased 700 per cent since 2012 to 744 from 102.

The money will go to in­creas­ing ca­pac­ity for peo­ple who are go­ing through with­drawal in Win­nipeg and Bran­don. Mr. Friesen said that will al­low for more flex­i­bil­ity and longer stays to tackle meth ad­dic­tion. The funds will also be used to cre­ate a mo­bile with­drawal ser­vice.

Dr. Ji­ten­der Sa­reen, a med­i­cal health di­rec­tor with Win­nipeg’s health au­thor­ity, said the new money will help fill a ma­jor gap in health care. He said the first phase of get­ting off meth is the im­me­di­ate with­drawal and it of­ten hap­pens in an acute­care set­ting such as an emer­gency room.

But peo­ple are still at risk dur­ing the sec­ond phase. They of­ten have anx­i­ety, de­pres­sion, psy­chotic symp­toms, crav­ings and night­mares for months af­ter quit­ting the drug.

Half of the new funds come from the fed­eral gov­ern­ment’s Emer­gency Treat­ment Fund, which was cre­ated to ad­dress the opi­oid cri­sis. In­ter­na­tional Trade Minister Jim Carr, who rep­re­sents Man­i­toba in the fed­eral cab­i­net, said for many peo­ple treat­ment is the best op­tion.

“Un­for­tu­nately finding and ac­cess­ing ap­pro­pri­ate treat­ment can be dif­fi­cult,” he said.

A re­quest for pro­pos­als is to be is­sued in the new year and ser­vices are ex­pected in the spring. Mr. Friesen said he ex­pects the ad­di­tional sup­port to help at least 130 peo­ple each year.

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