Daniel Emond says he has known for years that more addictions programs and services were needed in the city of Steinbach, as he has watched countless people in the area deal with addictions and dependency, and has seen how those issues have destroyed lives and torn families apart.
“The need is overwhelming in the Steinbach area,” Emond, the executive director of Adult & Teen Challenge of Central Canada said on Monday.
On Aug. 7, a grand opening ceremony was held for their brand new community office, which is now up and running on Main Street in the southeastern Manitoba city that is home to about 15,000 residents.
And while the new office marks the first permanent move of the organization into Steinbach, Emond says he has been working with addicts and their families in the city for years, and has seen first-hand how strong the need is for addictions services both in Steinbach, and in the surrounding rural areas.
“Every time we have come into the city to host a meeting or program we have been completely full, and in many cases not even been able to facilitate the amount of people coming through, because that need is so huge,” Emond said.
Emond says he now wants Manitobans to better understand that although drug addiction is a well-known issue in large centres like Winnipeg, it is also something that is just as prevalent and problematic in smaller cities and rural areas in the province, and one that has gotten worse recently because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It is sad and really astonishing how many people have died of overdoses over the course of this pandemic, yet we rarely hear anything about that,” Emond said. “It doesn’t matter where you live, these issues are prevalent everywhere, and along with the COVID-19 pandemic, I would say one of the greatest pandemics we are dealing with is death through overdoses.
“It has really skyrocketed.”
Although Steinbach didn’t even allow alcohol sales within the city limits until 2003, Emond said no one should mistakenly believe that a place like Steinbach would be less susceptible to issues like alcohol and drug abuse than any other Manitoba community.
Steinbach voters opted through a public vote to lift a ban on alcohol sales in the municipality back in 2003 after more than 30 years as a "dry" community, and the city did not have a Liquor Mart up and running within its boundaries until 2009.
“The issues are in Steinbach as much as they are everywhere else. There is no typical community that deals with addictions, and there is no typical person that becomes an addict,” Emond said.
“It can be anywhere, and it can be anyone.”
The new community office in Steinbach will now run as part addictions services, and part social enterprise, as the community office location will also include a small thrift store that the organization will use to help fund their operations, and as another way to get people in the door to see what they do as an organization.
“We can’t just be reliant on government for funding, we have to find ways to be self-sustainable,” Emond said.
Emond added they offer on-one-on support and assessments as well as long-term recovery programs, but also offer support to families and friends of those who are struggling with addictions.
Addictions Foundation of Manitoba (AFM) spokesperson Chad Saxon said that in the Steinbach area alcohol addiction makes up an overwhelming majority of the addictions issues they deal with in the community.
“Alcohol is consistently the number one presenting substance of choice among our adult clients in Steinbach and area,” Saxon said in an email.
According to AFM in 2020-2021 of their adult clients who sought support at the Steinbach office, 88% were primarily addicted to alcohol, while 4.6% were primarily addicted to cannabis, 2.8% were primarily addicted to amphetamines, 2.7% were primarily addicted to cocaine and crack cocaine and 1.8% were primarily addicted to opioids.
— Dave Baxter is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the Winnipeg Sun. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.
, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Sun