Wednesday, August 7, 2019

North End Councilor Echoes Liberal Leaders' Scepticism About WRHA "Harm Reduction" Free Needle Program

Mynarski Councilor Ross Eadie, whose north end ward has been noticably afflicted with discarded used needles, reacted to our story exposing that health officials lowballed the estimate of discarded needles in Winnipeg by 400% last year.

Last October the WRHA claimed in an email that "Needle distribution programs have also been shown to reduce the number of discarded needles in the community overall."

When challenged, they cited a study published in the year 2000.

In the same email, officials argued "Needle return rates have very little to do with the number of needles found discarded unsafely in the community."

 With discards estimated to be up 1200% since last year, Eadie cautioned:

 "I definitely believe Street Connections has not handled their program very well over the years on the collection side."

Eadie posted his observations on Facebook in a response to our follow up story with Dougald Lamont. The Manitoba Liberal leader was critical of both needle and data collection by the WRHA in an exclusive interview last week. 

Lamont, MLA for St. Boniface, told us it was "not surprising that the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority's estimate of discarded needles was so far from actual numbers," and insisted  that "Manitobans deserve to know the extent of issues within their communities."

His statement that "Good data is very important for governments to make the right policy choices" also caught Eadie's attention.

The three term council member shares Lamont's concerns about the city and provincial governments relying on the WRHA "harm reduction" program to hand out 2 Million free needles, when it is based on US studies over 18 years old that predate the prevelance of addicts cranking meth.

Another claim in the email last fall that the WRHA clings to is "Unlimited needle and syringe distribution is supported by Harm Reduction best practice recommendations."

Eadie questions how the evidence on the streets of his ward can be seen as consistent with a so-called "best practice".

"If you're going to run a harm reduction program, you must consider any harm to those who do not participate in the drug epidemic." 

Eadie later explaining in a follow-up conversation his frustration that some areas of his ward like North Point Douglas and Main Street neighborhoods are especially hard-hit by addicts tossing dirty needles wherever they wish without consequence.

Other readers, looking towards the pending Manitoba election, had strong reaction to the comments of Lamont about fighting the meth crisis, a key plank in his election platform.

They also noticed his willingness to explore whether a mothballed secure facility at 800 Adele Ave. could house a meth detox unit.

That proposal flowed from a tour of the facility as part of a meeting between building owners and Marion Willis of Morberg House, a successful St. Boniface residential meth treatment program.

*  "People going through a drug induced psychosis will still need to be cared for and removed from the general population" one women posted about the possibility of getting the building out of a court dispute with Premier Pallister and the PC government.

"Whatever your misgivings about drug use and addictions are, medical professionals can not refuse care to these people and this is a better alternative that will free up some space in the few Emergency Departments that we have left."

*  Another longtime source for our blog has been following our recent stories and did his own research: 

"Maybe this will help in numbers. After consulting two acquaintances who are needle users of Meth, I asked them about how many points that they used weekly

Using those numbers and also using the 1 million annual needle distribution number, this is my calculation.

AT ANY ONE TIME, we have 5000 meth users high and active. We also have another 5000 crashed and sleeping. You can add to that the number of smokers, snorters, and swallowers. That's just for Winnipeg."

Since the actual distribution number is double that - 2 million - it appears his estimate could be doubled, resulting in 10,000 meth users high in Winnipeg at a time while another 10,000 are crashed out.

*  A key factor that hasn't truly hit the public radar is the fact that the price for a point of meth, which dropped from $10 to $5 in the last 2 years, has now dropped in some circles to a mere $3.00. According to a Winnipeg Sun story last Boxing Day:

"Statistics from the Addictions Foundation of Manitoba said that between 2014 and 2017, the number of meth users rose 48% among youths and 104% among adults. The average age of a youth using meth is 16 and 81% of their reported cases are girls. AFM cited plummeting prices for meth as a chief factor in the increased usage across the board. "

*  "It's here in every neighbourhood. Crime to feed the meth habit." wrote a longtime property manager.

"River Park South, Island Lakes, South St Vital, Old St Vital, Southdale are right along with Windsor Park in the devastating effect theft and vandalism is having in our neighborhoods. Video after home video. Cars being broken into. Property stolen. It's an entire city under siege." she concluded.

*  Yesterday former Major Crimes Unit investigator James Jewell posted a deep-dive analysis what has resulted - a disorganized police response that has left both cops and citizens overwhelmed:

"Winnipeg residents are becoming frustrated, angry and feel abandoned. 

Communities are taking matters into their own hands, patrolling the streets and using social media platforms to organize in their efforts to fight crime. It shouldn’t have to come to this. The lack of consequences for property crime is definitely a major factor. In 2018, “lack of consequences” became a major theme at Manitoba Liquor Marts."

*  Just two weeks ago, after the liquor outlet in Tyndal Park was heisted, people in the know proved Jewell's point:

"At the Fort Richmond LC every week.
 Last week my dad was there and a group of 10-15 kids made a big commotion and stole all kinds of bottles and ran out.
The LC people say it happens every week and theres absolutely nothing they can do to stop it because of the risks.
Crazy tho, my dad said they walked out with like 3 or 4 bottles EACH."

and this -

"My brother works at an LC as well and they have thefts everyday. Some larger than others. Last weekend they walked up to the cashier and showed a weapon.  They walked out with 9 bottles of $90+ bottles."

Like the lady said, it's an entire city under siege.


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