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Why Manitoba isn’t looking to use safe consumption sites any time soon

Manitoba will not be using safe consumption sites to curb the rising number of drug-related deaths – at least not for now – a decision that some groups are saying is a mistake.

At a news conference on Wednesday, Mental Health and Community Wellness Minister Sarah Guillemard said the province’s five-year plan is focused on recovery-oriented systems of care, including treatment spaces and the Rapid Access to Addictions Medicine (RAAM) clinics.

She noted the province is looking at the data from other jurisdictions, including those that have safe consumption sites. Guillemard said the government will take the learnings from these jurisdictions and work towards finding a model that fits Manitoba.

“We’re looking at all the tools in the toolbox and then we’re going to see which ones are most effective, biggest impact, and directly help those who are struggling right now with substance abuse challenges to get into treatment and restore their lives,” the minister said.

Guillemard said there are lots of options on the table right now, adding that there doesn’t seem to be a “silver bullet.” She said the province will continue to focus on recovery-oriented care, while also examining other tools.

Guillemard said the strongest harm reduction strategy is to try to get people off of harmful drugs, adding that there is no safe amount of illicit drugs.

“No jurisdiction has found the one answer that is going to answer all the needs,” she said.

“We are focused in the area that we know has the highest impact and the best recovery rate and success for the future for individuals who are struggling.”

Guillemard’s comments come as many advocates continue to call on the government to implement safe injection sites, which are designated spaces for substance users where trained staff are on-hand to prevent accidental overdoses and reduce the transmission of infectious diseases.

In a statement, Thomas Linner, the provincial director of the Manitoba Health Coalition, said the organization has known for some time that the PC government is “uniquely hostile” to harm reduction efforts.

Linner said that despite the efforts, interventions, and evidence given by community and health organizations, the province has “put its own ideology over measures proven to save lives.”

He noted that Manitoba is the only province west of Atlantic Canada that doesn’t have one dedicated supervised consumption site, adding that the overdose death toll in the province is trending towards 500 this year.

“Premier Stefanson, Minister Guillemard and Minister Goertzen: Every overdose death in Manitoba can now be laid directly at your feet,” Linner said in a statement.

“You’ve chosen the ignorance and fear of your backbenchers over evidence and hope. The result will be chaos and suffering.” Top Stories

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