Manitoba

Manitoba bolsters walk-in addictions clinics, adds women's treatment beds

The Manitoba government is investing $2.7 million in addictions and mental health treatment — one of the major files on which critics say the province has not done enough.

$2.7-million investment in addictions, mental-health help comes on eve of expected government blackout

Manitoba Health Minister Cameron Friesen speaks at the announcement of $2.7-million funding for mental health and addictions treatment initiatives on Monday. (Ian Froese/CBC)

The Manitoba government plans to spend $2.7 million on addictions and mental health treatment — one of the major files on which critics say the province has not done enough.

On the eve of an expected blackout on government announcements because of a looming election, provincial officials said they'll spend $1.23 million per year to increase capacity at Rapid Access to Addictions Medicine (RAAM) clinics.

They also will spend $985,000 annually on 16 addictions treatment beds for women, and half a million each year on the Strongest Families Institute, which offers distance coaching for families working through mental health issues.

As a result, 176 more women will get access to treatment beds every year and 500 more families will benefit from early intervention mental health assistance, provincial officials said. 

RAAM hours expanding

The province will increase the hours of service at the two walk-in addiction clinics in Winnipeg and the one in Brandon, Health Minister Cameron Friesen said Monday morning at the Addictions Foundation of Manitoba's River Point Centre.

Those centres, as well as the clinics in Thompson and Selkirk, will receive more staffing resources for clinical workers, such as physicians, nurses and counsellors, as well as administrative supports. 

"In some ways, RAAM has been a victim of its own success, and so we are looking for ways to expand the model," Friesen said. 

More than 1,100 people have sought help through RAAM clinics since August 2018, while around 500 of those people were referred to other programs or facilities for further assistance, officials said.

The Winnipeg clinics at the Crisis Response Centre and AFM River Point will add a weekly three-hour window for follow-up patients, while Brandon's 7th Street Health Access Centre gains an extra two-hour interval.

The province has been criticized for limiting hours at RAAM clinics, which in some cases weren't open for more than two hours a day.

Meth rise behind need

"This is complex work, making sure that we have that stacked model of professionals … all coalescing around the patient. I would say what the 10 months have shown in Manitoba is this is an incredibly successful model."

The province also is adding 12 beds to the 28-day residential treatment program offered by the Addictions Foundation of Manitoba and four beds through the Behavioural Health Foundation's residential program for women and children. Both are in Winnipeg.

Addictions Foundation of Manitoba medical director Dr. Ginette Poulin says a surge in women battling meth addictions is behind the need for more treatment beds. (Ian Froese/CBC)

The need is great because of a large spike in women using methamphetamine, said Dr. Ginette Poulin, the AFM's medical director.

"The outcomes of that are often — the syphilis, congenital syphilis, aggression," Poulin said. "These are things that are quite striking for our province, because we are not seeing that elsewhere in Canada — in fact, pretty much elsewhere internationally at this time."

The announced changes will take effect within the next three months, provincial officials said Monday.

Friesen also said the illicit drug task force, which has members from the federal, provincial and Winnipeg governments, will provide its recommendations later this month.

A decision needs to be made about how their findings can be publicized once the provincial blackout is imposed, "but, of course, we'll have a strong interest in sharing that information with Manitobans," Friesen said.

About the Author

Ian Froese

Reporter

Ian Froese is a reporter with CBC Manitoba. He has previously worked for newspapers in Brandon and Steinbach. Story idea? Email: ian.froese@cbc.ca.

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