‘It’s pretty grim’: Advocates calling on Manitoba government to release opioid overdose death numbers

Community advocates are saying the province is not being upfront about opioid overdose deaths.

Regular reporting from the Public Health Agency of Canada has data for other provinces in 2022, but there isn’t information for Manitoba.

Last year, the province recorded more than 400 overdose deaths and Marion Willis, the founder of St. Boniface Street Links, thinks that number will be eclipsed in 2022.

“It’s pretty grim I have to say,” said Willis. “There was a week a few weeks ago where every single day we received a report of an overdose amongst those that we serve.”

But the exact number is unknown. The health agency collects information from provinces on a regular basis on opioid and other drug overdose deaths. But unlike other jurisdictions, for the first six months of this year, the data for Manitoba is unavailable.

“It feels intentional that you are not providing Manitobans with the access to the information that they need,” said Thomas Linner, the provincial director of the Manitoba Health Coalition.

The coalition, which is made up of community advocates and health union officials, says the province is hiding information.

“We could be missing trends that are taking live in that toxic drug supply right now.”

In a statement to CTV News Winnipeg, the province said the numbers are not available yet.

“Due to a lag in reports being finalized at the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner. Final toxicology results take three to six months to complete which can delay the medical examiner reports,” the statement said.

However, Manitoba did provide hospital admissions data for opioid overdoses, which shows an actual trend down.

Between January and June this year, the number was 52 or a rate of 7.4 per 100,000. This is compared to 8.8 in 2021 and 9.1 in 2020.

Willis said all this information helps governments access federal funding for drug programs and resources.

Along with Manitoba, Saskatchewan’s data was not available between April and June.

For the rest of the country, there were more than 3,500 deaths for the first months of the year, which works out to 20 per day.

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