Winnipeg organizations serving some of the city’s most vulnerable are warning of a naloxone shortage they fear could endanger lives heading into summer — but the province says there isn’t one.
Organizations are calling for a more reliable, steady supply they say could mean the difference between life and death.
Working with Resource Assistance for Youth, outreach worker Tammie Kolbuck said she could distribute ten naloxone kits in a matter of minutes, the demand is so high.
But now, RaY’s shelves are nearly bare due to a shortage other local organizations are also facing, she said.
“We’re going to see people die. That’s a very frank way of saying it,” Kolbuck said.
The province fulfills RaY’s orders, but in the last two weeks, some of their supplies haven’t arrived at all, RaY’s director of grants and information, Breda Vosters, told Global News on Thursday.
Their outreach teams could run out by the middle of next week, Vosters said.
“We’re at a point where naloxone and doing this, this kind of death prevention is really the only tool at our disposal, and when we don’t even have that, we’re, you know, we’re leaving community members swimming in a giant ocean without a life raft,” she said.
However, in a statement, the province told Global News, there isn’t a naloxone shortage. A brief supply issue caused some delays in shipping, a spokesperson said.
“Manitoba is working on obtaining more kits that will fulfill backorders, and in the coming weeks it is expected there will be sufficient supply on hand to meet any future orders,” they said.
For Arlene Last-Kolb with Moms Stop the Harm, whether it’s labelled a delay or a shortage, it’s happened before, and it still means people in need may not be getting the lifesaving medication.
“When we already know the toxic drug supply is so bad that it’s taking up to 13 injections of naloxone, so I say this is unacceptable.”
Data from the province suggests it’s on pace to distribute more kits in 2023 than the 24,200 that went out last year.
While the Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service isn’t reporting a shortage, a spokesperson for the service confirmed Thursday, outreach teams at RaY are often reversing overdoses in the crucial minutes before an ambulance arrives, Kolbuck said.
“This month alone, we’ve had three … opiate poisoning reversals, just from our team alone, so if you think about that, we’re at the 25th of May, three in one month is astronomical.”
In an email to CJOB, the province also said it was transitioning to a new kit supplier.
— With files from CJOB and Global’s Rosanna Hempel
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