Manitoba earmarks $4.2 million to boost youth mental health services

The province gave more details Monday about how it plans to spend millions on mental health care for youth.

Number of youth seeking treatment for mental health disorders at HSC has increased in recent years

Health minister Cameron Friesen announced more than $4 million in new funding on Monday aimed at increasing access and services for youth who seek mental health treatment. (Jaison Empson/CBC)

The province gave more details Monday about how it plans to spend millions on mental health care for youth. 

Health Minister Cameron Friesen announced Monday that $4.2 million dollars in new funding will be put toward increasing access and availability of psychiatric nurses and other services for youth over the next three years. 

"We've had funding for the nurses to be there, but what we didn't have was funding for if they were away ill or on vacation," said Dr. Laurence Katz, the medical director of child and adolescent mental health at Winnipeg's Health Sciences Centre. 

"Now we have that relief funding."

Katz said the number of youth seeking treatment for mental health disorders has steadily increased in recent years and he hopes boosting staff and services will allow early intervention before problems become more serious.

"It's not clear the actual rates of disorders are changing dramatically, but … distress is much higher in youth," Katz said. "Those rates of distress are pushing up demand for services."

The province previously said almost one in four Manitobans age 10 and older has a diagnosed mood or anxiety disorder, while 75 per cent of mental illness onsets occur before the age of 24.

The first phase of the funding will increase the availability of child and adolescent psychiatric emergency nurses, improve access to group and individual treatment, and provide better access to consultations in rural and remote communities, Friesen said.

The second phase, which the province expects to happen in the next fiscal year, will include the development of a clinic dedicated to patient followup and ongoing care.

The funding comes after a review of Manitoba's mental health and addictions services found more co-ordination and more access was needed. 

"If you want to make good investments … you have to focus on the mental health issues being manifested by children and youth," Friesen said.

"Get ahead of that curve, make that good investment."   

Monday's funding announcement is part of $18 million in provincial funding for nine initiatives that will improve mental health and addictions services, the province said. 


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