Family members and advocates for people living with addiction are reacting to the outcome of an investigation into the death of a 33-year-old man shot and killed by a Winnipeg police officer.
A review into the 2017 shooting in the Maples by the Independent Investigation Unit of Manitoba cleared the officer, who was stabbed by the man, of wrongdoing but raised questions about drug use and mental health problems.
The review found the man had previous contact with police related to meth.
According to a report released on Monday, the man was taken to Seven Oaks Hospital and appears to have been released later the same day.
“Considering the very similar factual circumstances that resulted in police intervention and hospitalization less than two weeks before this fatal shooting, one wonders whether a different response, approach or treatment plan would have affected (the affected person’s) future conduct,” said IIU civilian director Zane Tessler. “Other provincial agencies or resources may wish to review the adequacy of responses when dealing with drug abuse and mental health concerns.”
St. Boniface Street Links executive director Marion Willis said the circumstances surrounding the man’s death highlight gaps in the health system for meth users.
“We’ve had clients that have actually attended emergency, been taken by EMS three times in a 24 hour period,” said Willis. “They’re in and they’re released. There is no medical treatment for someone in meth psychosis. They really have to be safely detained somewhere.”
“We need a specialized unit called a drug stabilization unit to stabilize people who are in meth psychosis. I don’t know how many more ways we can deliver the message.”
The outcome of the Maples incident resonates with Judy Borynsky, who’s been calling for more help for people living with addiction in the wake of her son’s death.
She said her son Justin Davey lived with an addiction to painkillers and also used meth. He died in a fall from a balcony at a St. James apartment building in January after leaving Grace Hospital.
“It doesn’t have to end this way,” said Borynsky. “I don’t want any more people to die.”
Winnipeg Police Service Const. Rob Carver said meth use continues to be a challenge for officers.
He said police are constantly evaluating how they approach situations involving people high on meth.
“Are we doing everything we can to keep everyone safe,” said Carver. “Not only ourselves but people that are under the influence of meth.”
The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority said it’s concerned about the number of people attending emergency departments and the Crisis Response Centre because of crystal meth.
The WRHA said it tries to find a safe discharge option for patients with an appropriate caregiver.
A physician may also choose to detain an individual if medical staff are concerned the patient is at risk of harm to themselves or others.
The WRHA said solutions to the meth problem require a multi-sector approach to the issue.
The provincial government has promised a mental health and addictions strategy.
A final report is expected in the next few weeks.
Published at Tue, 20 Mar 2018 20:13:00 -0400