The Manitoba government is investing more than $500,000 and has created a task force to lead a co-ordinated provincewide response to growing concerns over the illegal use of fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid narcotic, Health Minister Sharon Blady, Healthy Living and Seniors Minister Deanne Crothers and Attorney General Gord Mackintosh announced today.
“We have a responsibility to ensure the safety and well-being of all Manitobans,” said Minister Blady. “We know that fentanyl has already destroyed too many lives in other provinces. The Manitoba government and its task force partners will not wait for the death toll to rise; we are acting now.”
The Manitoba Fentanyl Task Force will address issues starting with the launch of an awareness campaign to inform the public of the dangers of this drug. The campaign will also share information and safety tips for people who are currently using opioids.
“While our ultimate goal is always to prevent drug use, fentanyl has made it necessary to focus our efforts on first ensuring the reduction of harmful consequences for opioid users,” said Minister Crothers. “Preventing death by overdose is an obligation that must be free of judgment. Once users are safe, we can then focus our efforts on treatment.”
In addition to the awareness campaign, the Manitoba government is supporting the development of a program to distribute naloxone to injection and other high-risk opioid users through the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority (WRHA). This program will make naloxone kits accessible for emergency overdoses. The WRHA will be responsible for distributing the kits and provide training to opioid users, their family and friends, and service providers later this year. Naloxoneis a medication used to reverse the effects of opioids, preventing accidental and potentially fatal overdoses.
The task force will also examine information-sharing protocols to find ways to strengthen regulatory oversight and assist police investigations related to opioid drug trafficking.
“We believe a collaborative effort, with the expertise of those in law enforcement, health care, addictions treatment and other fields, is our best bet to reduce the dangers posed by fentanyl,” said Minister Mackintosh. “We need to take strong action to address the illegal sale and use of fentanyl and other opioids today, to prevent their negative effects on individuals, families and communities.”
The ministers noted the second phase of the task force’s work will focus on expanding supports available to all opioid drug users through reduced wait times for assessment and addictions treatment across the province. The task force will also develop a plan to distribute naloxone more widely across Manitoba. Finally, the task force will also consider whether there are ways to improve information gathered from health-care providers and law enforcement to more quickly identify when substances are increasingly trafficked, abused or cause injury to Manitobans.
“Fentanyl started as a pain medication but now presents a real and present danger to our communities in Manitoba and across Canada,” said Scott Kolody, chief superintendent, RCMP ‘D’ Division. “The RCMP in Manitoba is committed to working alongside our justice, health, community and law enforcement partners in this concentrated, collaborative and proactive effort.”
The Manitoba Fentanyl Task Force is co-chaired by representatives of the Department of Health, Healthy Living and Seniors, and the Justice department. It also includes representatives from the Winnipeg Police Service, Brandon Police Service, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Canada Border Services, the College of Physicians and Surgeons, the College of Pharmacists of Manitoba, the Addictions Foundation of Manitoba and others from the provincial government.
For more information on fentanyl, visit www.knowyoursource.ca.