Pubdate: Tue, 15 Nov 2016
Source: Winnipeg Free Press (CN MB)
Copyright: 2016 Winnipeg Free Press
Author: Alexandra Paul
Page: A5


Calls for national strategy heading into summit on illicit drugs

MANITOBA'S health minister is calling on the federal government to
stop the flow of powdered fentanyl from countries such as China.

"We need national strategies around that," Kelvin Goertzen said Monday
at a news conference to mark addictions awareness week.

The event, held before Friday's national opioid conference and summit
in Ottawa, included some of the province's leading addictions and
health officials and the mothers of two victims of fentanyl overdoses.

"My hope is that there are clear deliverables that come out of
Ottawa," Goertzen said. "That's probably why the (federal health)
minister called the meeting, to have a national strategy."

On a provincial level, there needs to be a better idea of the extent
of the opioid crisis, he said.

"We know anecdotally from talking to police and paramedics and parents
that the problem is significant," he said. "I don't know if we realize
the depth of the problem. There's inconsistency in reporting overdoses
in provinces, Manitoba being one of them."

Arlene Last-Kolb and Christine Dobbs - both of whom lost 24-year-old
sons to fentanyl overdoses - praised the provincial government for
speaking up.

"We've been trying to make them realize this is an epidemic, and
they're starting to recognize they have to work co-operatively (with
us) and take it seriously," Dobbs said.

"I believe they're on the right track," Last-Kolb said.

Illicit opioids kill hundreds of Canadians every year.

In what may have been be a first in the country, Mtest results made
public last week revealed that a nine-month old baby rushed to
hospital in dire medical condition had been exposed to carfentanil in
a North End home. Winnipeg police described the drug as 100 times more
powerful than fentanyl, which itself is 50 to 100 times more powerful
than morphine.

Carfentanil is often used by veterinarians on large animals. It is
also administered to some cancer patients.

Police said last week the baby is safe. The parents face drug and
child-endangerment charges.

Earlier this year, after three overdoses in the city in one week,
Winnipeg police announced plans to carry kits with the opioid antidote

"Over the last 10 years, we're looking at somewhere between 10,000 and
20,000 dead people in Canada just from opioid overdoses alone," Dr.
Benedikt Fischer of the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health wrote
in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

Meanwhile, Goertzen signalled the province has concerns about the
Trudeau Liberals' election promise to legalize recreational marijuana.

"We obviously have some concerns about the nature of the product
that's going to be made available, how it's going to be distributed
and how (to) test somebody who's under the influence," he said.

Former deputy prime minister Anne McLellan is leading a federal task
force looking at those questions.

Its findings are due later this month. The Liberals have said they
plan a strict regulatory framework for the production and distribution
of legal pot.
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