Aboriginal Health & Wellness Centre to help province develop supervised consumption site

The Manitoba government is partnering with an Indigenous-led organization in developing the province’s first supervised consumption site.

Aboriginal Health & Wellness Centre, which put forward a proposal earlier this year to establish an Indigenous-run facility, will be the province’s community partner in developing the site, Premier Wab Kinew confirmed to reporters Monday afternoon.  

The wellness centre will also take the lead over the “next few months” on consulting with community members, particularly around the location of the facility.  

“We’ve looked at other jurisdictions: It is clear that there will be an impact when you open a supervised consumption site, in terms of the next few blocks around it, so we need to select the location with that in mind. That means it probably can’t go near a school or a daycare,” Kinew said.

“Are there other areas where maybe we could put a community plan around with foot patrol and collaboration with law enforcement to ensure that those surrounding blocks are going to be able to absorb the impact of opening a facility like this?”

In the spring, Kinew said the government was considering an area in the vicinity of north Main Street for the supervised consumption site, which will provide sterile needles and other consumption equipment. Staff will be on hand in the event of an overdose and to connect users to support services.

The NDP government promised in its budget to spend $2.5 million this year toward the planning and development. The facility is expected to open in 2025.

Assessing the look of supervised site

Kinew said the government and AHWC will also evaluate the service’s design and how it integrates with existing supports for people living with addictions. 

The premier stressed the facility will be more than just a place where drugs are consumed while supervised.

He wants medical supervision with staff trained in using naloxone to stop an overdose from happening. He said staff will also refer people to services, such as detox or a primary care provider. 

“The people coming inside the front door, we want to not just have a one-off interaction with them. We want to put them on a pathway towards better health in the future.”

A man in a black suit and black checkered tie stands in a room.
Manitoba Premier Wab Kinew announces that Aboriginal Health and Wellness Centre will be the province’s partner on the development of a supervised consumption site. (Justin Fraser/CBC)

AHWC already helps people struggling with addictions.

They run one of the province’s walk-in addictions clinics, known as a rapid access to addictions medicine (RAAM) clinic. Their downtown Winnipeg clinic opened late last year.

According to preliminary data from the Manitoba chief medical examiner’s office, there were 89 suspected substance-related deaths in the first two months of 2024, a number that could still rise. 

The 56 deaths reported in January is a record in a single month. The preliminary data also suggests there were 445 deaths in 2023 and a record 467 deaths in 2022.

Manitoba is the only province west of Atlantic Canada that does not have a supervised consumption site.

For more than a year and a half, Sunshine House has operated a mobile overdose prevention site out of an RV, the closest Manitoba has to a permanent site.