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Ottawa must act on opioid abuse, Manitoba's health minister says

JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>Health Minister Kelvin Goertzen: 'My hope is that there are clear deliverables that come out of Ottawa'</p>

JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Health Minister Kelvin Goertzen: 'My hope is that there are clear deliverables that come out of Ottawa'

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 14/11/2016 (980 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Manitoba’s health minister is calling on Ottawa for national action to stop the flow of powdered fentanyl from countries such as China.

"We need national strategies around that because it's an importation issue we need some help with," Kelvin Goertzen said Monday at a press conference at the legislature to mark addictions awareness week.

The event, just days before Friday's national opioid conference and summit in Ottawa, included some of the province's leading addictions and health officials and the mothers of two victims of fentanyl overdoses.

"My hope is that there are clear deliverables that come out of Ottawa," Goertzen said. "That's probably why the (federal health) minister called the meeting, to have a national strategy.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 14/11/2016 (980 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Manitoba’s health minister is calling on Ottawa for national action to stop the flow of powdered fentanyl from countries such as China.

"We need national strategies around that because it's an importation issue we need some help with," Kelvin Goertzen said Monday at a press conference at the legislature to mark addictions awareness week.

The event, just days before Friday's national opioid conference and summit in Ottawa, included some of the province's leading addictions and health officials and the mothers of two victims of fentanyl overdoses.

"My hope is that there are clear deliverables that come out of Ottawa," Goertzen said. "That's probably why the (federal health) minister called the meeting, to have a national strategy.

On a provincial level, there's also a need to get a better fix on the extent of the opioid crisis, he said.

"We know anecdotally from talking to police and paramedics and parents that the problem is significant," he said. "I don't know if we realize the depth of the problem, there's inconsistency in reporting overdoses in provinces, Manitoba being one of them."

Arlene Last-Kolb and Christine Dobbs — both of whom lost 24-year-old sons to fentanyl overdoses — praised the province for speaking up.

"We've been trying to make them realize this is an epidemic and they're starting to recognize they have to work co-operatively (with us) and take it seriously," Dobbs said.

"I believe they're on the right track," said Last-Kolb.

Illicit opioids are the focus of an overdose epidemic involving hundreds of deaths in Canada.

In what may have been be a first in the country, test results made public last week revealed that a nine-month old baby rushed to hospital in dire medical condition had been exposed to carfentanil in a North End home. Winnipeg police described the drug as 100 times more powerful than fentanyl, which itself is 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine.

Carfentanil is often used by veterinarians tending to large animals. It is also administered to some cancer patients.

The baby is now safe and the parents are facing drug and child-endangerment charges.

Earlier this year, Winnipeg police announced plans to carry kits with the fentanyl antidote naxolone in the aftermath of three ODs in the city in one week.

"Over the last 10 years, we're looking at somewhere between 10,000 and 20,000 dead people in Canada just from opioid overdoses alone," Dr. Benedikt Fischer of the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health wrote in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

Meanwhile, Goertzen signalled the province has concerns around federal Liberals election promise to legalize recreational marijuana.

"We obviously have some concerns about the nature of the product that's going to be made available, how it's going to be distributed and how do you test somebody who's under the influence," he said.

Former deputy prime minister Anne McLellan is leading a federal task force on those very questions and is due to report its findings later this month. The federal Liberals have said they plan a strict regulatory framework for the production and distribution of legal pot.

 

alexandra.paul@freepress.mb.ca

Alexandra Paul

Alexandra Paul
Reporter

Alexandra is a veteran news reporter who has covered stories for the Winnipeg Free Press since 1987. She held the medical beat for nearly 17 years, and today specializes in coverage of Indigenous-related issues. She is among the most versatile journalists on the paper’s staff.

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