Manitoba government proposes plan for Indigenous-led supervised consumption site in Winnipeg

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The province says it is considering a community proposal for an Indigenous-led supervised consumption site in downtown Winnipeg.

The coalition behind this idea, led by the Center for Aboriginal Health and Wellness, includes community partners Sunshine House, Ka Ni Kanichihk, Manitoba Harm Reduction Network, Main Street Project and Substance Consulting.

For over a year, Sunshine House has been operating The only mobile overdose prevention site in Manitoba from an RV near Main Street and Disraeli Highway, providing addicts with a place to test their drugs and staff trained to respond to an overdose.

“It’s very exciting to work in this type of landscape, where you have the support of the community, a provincial government that’s really open to dialogue and listening,” Sunshine House general manager Levi Foy said Tuesday. to CBC News.

However, he added, “we need to move faster… We know things are getting worse and our communities face many more challenges.”

Preliminary data from the province’s chief medical examiner suggests 355 Manitobans have died from suspected overdoses between January and October 2023, 63 fewer than the 2022 record of 418.

Bernadette Smith’s mandate as Minister of Housing, Addictions and Homelessness is to establish the province’s first supervised consumption site in Winnipeg.

In an emailed statement to CBC News, she said: “We are carefully considering the proposal from the Aboriginal Health and Wellness Center and community partners as a solution to help our loved ones on their journey to recovery.” »

“Drug toxicity is increasing”

Foy says the group hopes to get more money to keep the Sunshine House overdose prevention camper going five days a week. However, their ideal goal is a permanent supervised consumption site near Higgins Avenue and Main Street in the heart of Winnipeg.

“It’s very clear, through the 250 visits a day that we’re getting, that we need something there, and it’s also very clear that the services that we provide are very, very clearly just a pisc -go,” Foy said.

“Right now, we’re all doing this outside of our office, so it would be great if we had project managers and people who could dedicate 35 to 40 hours a week just to really get the project going.”

A brown and black camper van is parked in an outdoor parking lot.
Sunshine House, a Winnipeg-based organization, has operated an overdose prevention site from an RV since October 2022. (Alana Cole/CBC)

The harm reduction VR received a federal exemption in October 2022 under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act to operate in Winnipeg’s Downtown, West End, North End and Point Douglas communities.

The community welcome and resource center raised about $375,000 last year to operate the camper until the end of March, after its funding deal with Health Canada for the mobile site was expected to dry up. by the end of October.

Foy says operational funding from the city is unlikely, meaning a mix of funding from the province and private and public donors is Sunshine House’s last option.

The mobile site has seen “sustained high numbers” and the community needs to know whether or not the service will continue to be offered beyond July 1, he said.

“We could really create something unique”

Some services also cannot be provided from a motorhome. They require a combination of clinical and community services provided by the coalition.

“Ideally, we would like to improve our services because drug toxicity is increasing,” Foy said. “We work in a very confined space and in a very uncontrolled environment.”

An online form asking people to show their support for the coalition’s proposal has reached about 700 signatures, according to Foy.

“If we all come together collaboratively and in tandem, we could really create something unique, beautiful and Indigenous-led.”

Manitoba government mulls proposed Indigenous-led supervised consumption site in Winnipeg

As overdoses approach record levels, the province says it is considering a community proposal for an Indigenous-led supervised consumption site in downtown Winnipeg. The coalition behind this idea, led by the Center for Aboriginal Health and Wellness, includes community partners Sunshine House, Ka Ni Kanichihk, Manitoba Harm Reduction Network, Main Street Project and Substance Consulting.

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