It can easily be said that one of the primary issues candidates in the 2018 municipal election had to consider was one that municipalities have little control over.
The drastic increase in opioid and methamphetamine drug use in major centres across the province has been top of mind for almost two years. Local volunteer neighbourhood watch groups have been finding needles and other paraphernalia on sidewalks, in public parks and other areas, while local health practitioners have been inundated with people suffering from drug related issues.
Public health, however, is under the jurisdiction of the provincial government. Manitoba’s Department of Health, Seniors and Active Living took a small step towards delivering further service to the issue with the opening of Rapid Access to Addictions Medicine clinics in Winnipeg, Brandon and Thompson. Another is scheduled to open in Selkirk later this year.
However, according to the profiles published in the Westman Journal the previous two weeks, the illicit drug situation has trickled down to the municipal level, moving a majority of council candidates to consider it while knocking on doors and meeting voters in public. In fact, the only formal candidates’ forum held during this year’s election campaign focussed on a drug crisis that has motivated a local group to lobby all levels of government for aid.
It is, nevertheless, a challenge for local alderman and women to develop a substantial strategy to stem the crisis when the power to do so lays elsewhere. So, where can a city like Brandon turn when the entire issue falls under the purview of a provincial government that has already tightened its financial belt across the board?
It may be a dirty word to many Manitobans, but should we not discuss - considering the wide-ranging and thoroughly destructive impact the drug crisis is having on many individuals across the country - a privatized clinic option?
Obviously regulated and completely transparent for-profit or non-profit, private addiction clinics may help broaden the scope of readily available services for this seeking help. This option can bear some of the burden Manitoba’s already-strained public health system is carrying.
Plus, operations like Teen Challenge - with a women’s centre right here in Brandon - boast of success ratios of about 70 per cent throughout the country. If true, is there any question that communities around Manitoba should look a little deeper into this type of programming? If the success rates are proven unsubstantiated, in the very least, the municipal government has deepened its knowledge on the subject and taken steps towards rectifying a problem they otherwise have no financial ability to serve or jurisdiction over.
But before anyone argues that Teen Challenge is a “faith-based” organization and, therefore, should be disqualified, consider what the goal is; to save drug and alcohol addicted people. Should it matter whether Christianity plays a role in making that happen?
Regardless, if municipal governments open up to the idea of attracting such operations to their communities, it would only make sense that secular facilities would also jump into the fray.
When one sees the depths and danger of the issue, it’s something to consider.