WINNIPEG – Manitoba’s health minister says nine people in Manitoba have died this year from a fentanyl overdose and that number is expected to go up.
Kelvin Goertzen told the legislature on Tuesday that 24 people in total have died from opioid abuse, but the numbers are only from the first five months of 2016.
“This number is expected to go up as there are number of toxicology reports outstanding,” Goertzen said.
Goertzen said every province is facing an opioid problem and at a national conference last week in Ottawa, Manitoba made several commitments to curb the use of fentanyl, which is considered 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine.
These commitments include better tracking and reporting of overdoses, and providing specialized education for service providers and parents.
NDP health critic Matt Wiebe argued the province can’t wait for national strategy from Ottawa and Manitoba has failed to act.
Wiebe suggested the province expand the distribution of naloxone, a drug that reserves the effects of an overdose.
“Naloxone distribution is key and getting it into the hands of those at risk and families by any means necessary needs to priority number one for this government,” Wiebe said.
Goertzen said the government plans on expanding distribution, but it’s not a solution to fight the ongoing crisis.
“Having a naloxone kit is not a safety net,” Goertzen said. “It may mitigate, but it cannot eliminate the incredible risks inherent with using these drugs in an illicit fashion.”
This debate comes after two men died on Sunday from a suspected fentanyl overdose.
Last week the bodies of three people, a man and two women, were found inside a home in the city’s northwest end and police say a white powder was found inside a home which could potentially be fentanyl.
Winnipeg Police are still awaiting toxicology reports regarding to the deaths of two men in the North End in October. Officers have also confirmed carfentanil, which is 100 more powerful than fentanyl, almost killed a nine-month-old boy last month.