On Thursday March 22, I asked questions about the Meth crisis in Manitoba - and in particular about where a person with meth psychosis should go. I learned recently, it is not easy to know where to go. The text of my questions and the Minister's responses are below. They are also available on a video at this link - Meth Crisis - where to go for help? For more information and follow up see the story at this link.
Health Sciences Centre - Beds for Methamphetamine Patients
Hon. Jon Gerrard (River Heights): Madam Speaker, January 24th, the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority, as described in the Winnipeg Free Press, said since mid-January, the WRHA has opened an additional six mental health beds at the Health Sciences Centre to address the growing numbers of patients presenting to emergency departments with severe consequences of meth use.
This action was in response to the death of Windy Sinclair, who went to Seven Oaks emergency room for help with meth toxicity. She died December 28th without getting help.
Can the minister report today on how the extra six beds at the Health Sciences Centre are helping to deal with the meth crisis?
Hon. Kelvin Goertzen (Minister of Health, Seniors and Active Living): Madam Speaker, we know that not just in Manitoba, but in many places in Canada, in fact, in North America, the incidence and use of methamphetamine is growing to difficult rates and alarming rates for those who are working within the health‑care and the addictions system.
Certainly, I've had the opportunity to meet with many who've been impacted, family members, those within the health-care system. We know that there needs to be new strategies and new plans developed to deal with this issue which continues to grow across North America and we continue to work with our experts within the system to develop those plans, Madam Speaker.
Madam Speaker: The honourable member for River Heights, on a supplementary question.
Mr. Gerrard: Madam Speaker, I report today that an individual with meth addiction and meth psychosis went to the Health Sciences Centre on March the 8th for help. He was told that the six beds for helping those with meth toxicity did not exist. He was turned away. He tried the Main Street Project. They would not accept him because he was in meth psychosis. He tried the crisis stabilization unit, which also would not accept him. He returned to the Health Sciences Centre once more. He was told that the six beds to help people with meth toxicity do not exist. The individual was so upset by the lack of help he almost committed suicide.
I ask the minister: How many more people will die before this minister will act?
Mr. Goertzen: Madam Speaker, there is no doubt that the issue of methamphetamine, but not just methamphetamine–when it comes to opiates and addiction more generally, let's never forget that one of the greatest addictions that we have in Manitoba is still alcoholism, which I know too much about from my own family history.
There are many things that need to be done. There are many things that are being done. We know that there are new and developing strategies across North America to deal with methamphetamine and other addictions. We are in tune with those different strategies. We're listening to the advice from experts, including Dr. Rush and the VIRGO consulting group which will report by the end of this month for a strategy in Manitoba, and we look forward to implementing those strategies, Madam Speaker.
Madam Speaker: The honourable member for River Heights, on a final supplementary.
Mr. Gerrard: Madam Speaker, Windy Sinclair's death December 28th was a very, very strong message to Manitobans that action was needed to ensure a safe place for people with meth psychosis to go for help.
The WRHA advertised in an article in the Winnipeg Free Press on January 24th that it had such a place, and now we find that the government's health system could not be trusted when it spoke.
I ask the minister: What will he do to restore the trust in the health system? How many more people must die before the minister acts?
Mr. Goertzen: Well, Madam Speaker, I say with some regret that I've learned to not trust everything that this member brings to the floor of the Legislature. We are certainly all honourable members, I know, but in fact-checking some of the things in the past that he's brought here, they've proven to be not quite as he's presented in the House.
But what certainly is true, Madam Speaker, is that methamphetamine and other addictions across Manitoba, Canada and North America are becoming more difficult. We know that and we know that there'll continue to be challenges across the spectrum of addictions.
We've been meeting not with just experts, but with families. We're hearing from experts. We will hear from VIRGO and Dr. Rush in terms of his recommendations for Manitoba within a week and then we'll release that report publicly sometime after that, and we look forward to implementing the recommendations that he brings forward.