Several people in Winnipeg are facing charges of trafficking prescription drugs as a result of a concentrated effort by police to target traffickers in the area of Main Street between Sutherland Avenue and Selkirk Avenue.

The partnership between the Winnipeg Police Service’s District 3 community support and organized crime units and Public Prosecution Service of Canada is called Project Dissolve. District 3 Divisional Commander Insp. Cam Baldwin said police services across Canada are dealing with the health and safety problems associated with prescription drug trafficking.

“This same concern was expressed at several community forums we hosted in the North End this spring,” he said in a news release.  

Six people face charges of trafficking in a controlled substance, including: Justin Jacobson, 26; Tiffany Stevenson, 22; Andrea Dnistransky, 26; CynthiaGenaille, 43; Brian Ducharme, 47; and Lydia Bull, 29. They’re charged with trafficking several different drugs, including Tylenol 3, codeine, hydro-morphone (Dilaudid), oxy-codone (Percocet), diazepam (Valium), alprazolam (Xanax), and temazepam. Some suspects are also charged with trafficking marijuana.

Winnipeg police expect to make further arrests.

Police partner with community members

Sel Burrows runs a community watch program and anonymous tip-line in Point Douglas. He's seen people walk out of pharmacies along that Sutherland and Selkirk stretch and immediately sell prescriptions to others right on the sidewalk in broad daylight. He says it’s a health and safety concern for the community, and calls the police effort to crack down a good step.

"People are hurting when they take drugs (that) they shouldn't be the wrong way," he said. "We've have overdoses, we've had people die from overdoses."

Burrows turned to the Winnipeg police, who partnered with the Public Prosecution Service of Canada to crack down on prescription trafficking along that stretch of Main Street.

"In this area, poverty is an issue, right, but it's not just in this area and it's not just in Winnipeg," said Sgt. Bonnie Emerson.

Advocates call for tighter prescription controls

Burrows would like to see photos featured on health cards.

Members of the Mount Carmel Clinic Pharmacy agree with him. They sit on a board aimed at looking at overall changes in the prescription drug system that could help avoid addictions and trafficking.

In addition to including photos on health cards, they would like a comprehensive list of a client's prescriptions available to all pharmacists.

The clinic's director says people often overlook the dangers of offering medications without prescriptions. "Perhaps they haven't used it all, and it's there at home, and somebody who perhaps knows the effect of these drugs asks to buy it," said Catheryn Marten, interim director of primary health.

Marten said the clinic's addictions programs aim to help without prosecuting clients. "No judgment, let's help you distance yourself from this activity, these prescriptions, and still address pain, if that is still an issue for you."

- with a report from Alesia Fieldberg