Meth Crisis Worsens amid “Unprecedented” Outbreak of Diseases Manitoba NDP Demand Province Take Action on Safe Consumption Site instead of Cuts

December 11, 2018

The Manitoba NDP called on the Pallister government today to take immediate action to combat a sever outbreak of blood borne diseases like hepatitis B, hepatitis C, syphilis and HIV linked to the meth and opiate crisis.

Documents obtained via freedom of information requests from the WRHA reveal “unprecedented” outbreaks of communicable diseases in Winnipeg associated with rising intravenous drug use. According to the documents dated on August 1, 2018, the Winnipeg Health Region has declared an outbreak of acute hepatitis B “almost exclusively linked to injection drug use”, and warns it may lead to other blood-borne disease outbreaks. The documents show an “unprecedented” rise in hepatitis C cases among youth under the age of 25. They also project more than 250 cases of syphilis for 2018, the “highest number ever recorded” in Winnipeg Health Region.

“These documents show the meth crisis is now becoming a public health crisis in Manitoba,” said Wab Kinew, Leader of the Manitoba NDP. “The government has to act immediately to reduce the spread of disease and to offer way more treatment options for those injecting meth or opiates. Building safe consumption sites and permanent treatment beds, not just temporary beds, are needed to slow the spread of infection.”

According to the documents, 50% of people accessing drug injection supplies report crystal meth as their most commonly injected drug. Additionally, 47% of people who died of apparent fentanyl-related overdose in 2017 were found to have crystal meth in their system.

The WRHA cites a “lack of provincial leadership” as an exacerbating factor in the fight against the rise of communicable diseases. It notes the six inpatient beds the Pallister government installed at HSC were scheduled to be cut in November as part of their plan to close three Winnipeg emergency rooms. On top of this, a proposal for early intervention in meth psychosis developed by the WRHA has been ignored by the Minister for months.

“These documents are an indictment of the Pallister government’s disregard for the meth crisis in our province,” said NDP Health Critic Andrew Swan. “The Premier is putting the health of patients at risk by failing to take action . We need investments in prevention, permanent treatment beds and better supports for addicts and families. Combined with the Government’s refusal to invest in harm reduction programs that work, like safe consumption sites, more Manitobans will needlessly suffer until this Government takes action.”

You can download a meth fact sheet based on Crystal Methamphetamine in Winnipeg: Impact on public health and emergency response systems, WRHA, August 1, 2018. Click the Adobe Acrobat icon.

PDF FormatAdobe Acrobat version.