May 31, 2020

Winnipeg
20° C, Partly cloudy

Full Forecast

Winnipeg Free Press

ABOVE THE FOLD

Help us deliver reliable news during this pandemic.

We are working tirelessly to bring you trusted information about COVID-19. Support our efforts by subscribing today.

No Thanks Subscribe

Already a subscriber?

Province denies neglecting addictions, mental health

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 26/9/2019 (247 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

When the new provincial government announced 100 items it wanted to accomplish in its first 100 days in office last week, improving mental health services and reducing addictions were not listed on its agenda.

The omission raised red flags for the opposition, considering the province is grappling with high rates of methamphetamine use and long waits to access mental health and addictions services.

In an interview Thursday morning, Health Minister Cameron Friesen said Manitobans shouldn't fret.

"The 100-day plan is a snapshot of the government’s comprehensive plan, the early work that it will undertake. I don’t think anything should be read into the fact mental health and addictions is not explicitly mentioned," he told the Free Press.

"Manitobans know that making good investments in mental health and addictions is a priority for our government. Why? Because we have clearly stated that it is a priority for our government."

New financial statements released Thursday afternoon show the province didn't spend $2 million allocated for mental health and addictions care (of $215 million underspent in the health department in general). Finance Minister Scott Fielding argued the government spent $103 million more on health care than the year prior, although it appeared to be underspending due to new accounting measures.

Manitoba Health Minister Cameron Friesen.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/DAVID LIPNOWSKI

Manitoba Health Minister Cameron Friesen.

"Manitobans know that making good investments in mental health and addictions is a priority for our government. Why? Because we have clearly stated that it is a priority for our government." — Health Minister Cameron Friesen

Earlier in the day, Friesen reiterated commitments the PC party made during the election campaign and plan to implement. They include developing a "modern anti-addictions curriculum" for students starting in Grade 3, creating a new Rapid Access to Addictions Medicine (RAAM) clinic in the Southern Health region and building an acute medical sobering facility. He couldn't say which, if any, of the pledges would be rolled out within the first 100 days.

"What I would tell Manitobans is stay tuned, but not for much longer," Friesen said.

The promise of a new sobering facility has caused some confusion among health-care and front-line workers, including Rick Lees, executive director of the Main Street Project.

He said Main Street already has a 20-cell sobering unit that could be expanded and he wondered whether the province's plan would spur duplication.

"What I do know is we don’t need two. Splitting the dollars is never really productive," Lees said.

In its first 100 days, Lees would like to see the province expand its continuum of care. That would mean providing more RAAM clinics, expanding detox and stabilization units at Main Street, and introducing longer, one-year drug treatment programs at several locations around the province. The programs should be harm-reduction focused and not abstinence-based, Lees pointed out, so that supports aren't revoked from people if they relapse.

Rick Lees, executive director of the Main Street Project.

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Rick Lees, executive director of the Main Street Project.

"The crisis we’re dealing with is a mental health crisis. You know, the most difficult topic to talk about right? People find their way to alcohol abuse, opiate abuse and meth... basically through trauma or some other event." — Rick Lees, executive director of the Main Street Project

"The crisis we’re dealing with is a mental health crisis. You know, the most difficult topic to talk about right? People find their way to alcohol abuse, opiate abuse and meth ... basically through trauma or some other event," Lees said.

"We’re focusing too much on the symptom or the outcome, rather than focusing on why do we have this problem in the first place?"

Dr. Ginette Poulin, a specialist with the Addictions Foundation of Manitoba, also highlighted the needs for more RAAM services, as well as more treatment beds for women.

Meantime, NDP health critic Bernadette Smith chided the government for not acting more swiftly.

"Manitoba’s meth crisis needs urgent, immediate action. Property crime and violent crime continue to rise while families struggle to get help for their loved ones," she said in a written statement.

"We had a plan to build long-term treatment beds, detox and a safe injection site within the first 100 days of office because we understand that families need help today. Too many lives are at risk for Brian Pallister to delay and ignore this crisis for another three years."

jessica.botelho@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @_jessbu

https://gov.mb.ca/asset_library/en/proactive/100-day-action-plan-letter.pdf

Your support has enabled us to provide free access to stories about COVID-19 because we believe everyone deserves trusted and critical information during the pandemic.

Our readership has contributed additional funding to give Free Press online subscriptions to those that can’t afford one in these extraordinary times — giving new readers the opportunity to see beyond the headlines and connect with other stories about their community.

To those who have made donations, thank you.

To those able to give and share our journalism with others, please Pay it Forward.

The Free Press has shared COVID-19 stories free of charge because we believe everyone deserves access to trusted and critical information during the pandemic.

While we stand by this decision, it has undoubtedly affected our bottom line.

After nearly 150 years of reporting on our city, we don’t want to stop any time soon. With your support, we’ll be able to forge ahead with our journalistic mission.

If you believe in an independent, transparent, and democratic press, please consider subscribing today.

We understand that some readers cannot afford a subscription during these difficult times and invite them to apply for a free digital subscription through our Pay it Forward program.

The Free Press would like to thank our readers for their patience while comments were not available on our site. We're continuing to work with our commenting software provider on issues with the platform. In the meantime, if you're not able to see comments after logging in to our site, please try refreshing the page.

You can comment on most stories on The Winnipeg Free Press website. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or digital subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

Have Your Say

Comments are open to The Winnipeg Free Press print or digital subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to The Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

By submitting your comment, you agree to abide by our Community Standards and Moderation Policy. These guidelines were revised effective February 27, 2019. Have a question about our comment forum? Check our frequently asked questions.