Manitoba

Walk-in addiction clinics in Winnipeg strengthened with new funding: province

Manitoba is responding to the growing need for mental health services during the pandemic by improving two walk-in clinics in Winnipeg, the provincial government announced on Monday.

Opposition NDP disappointed that funding may not increase hours at clinics that run for two hours at a time

Mental Health, Wellness and Recovery Minister Audrey Gordon announces $819,000 in new funding for two walk-in clinics in Winnipeg for people struggling with their addictions. (Manitoba Media Pool)

Manitoba is responding to the growing need for mental health services during the pandemic by improving two walk-in clinics in Winnipeg, the provincial government announced on Monday.

The province is bolstering staffing and other resources at two walk-in locations, known as rapid access to addictions medicine or RAAM clinics, with an $819,000 commitment, Mental Health Minister Audrey Gordon said.

She expects 400 more patients to be helped annually as a result. 

The demand for these services have only heightened in the pandemic, and that need is more pronounced in Winnipeg, Gordon said.

"We know some Manitobans have increased their substance use as a way to cope with the effects of stress and anxiety related to the COVID-19 pandemic," she said.

The number of substance-related deaths in Manitoba hit 372 in 2020, an increase of 182 deaths from the year before. 

Hours may be altered

Gordon said the new funding will add a navigator, provide physician support and may perhaps alter the hours of these clinics.

The clinics offer walk-in patients access to intervention and community treatment programs. Typically staffed by an addictions physician and a combination of clinicians, counsellors and outreach workers, patients will be referred to other health professionals if warranted. 

Critics have called for the operating hours at RAAM clinics to be expanded. 

The clinic at the Crisis Response Centre runs for two hours a day, three days a week. The other Winnipeg location, at River Point Centre, operates for the same number of hours but for two days a week.   

"The moment a Manitoban struggling with addictions makes the decision to seek help, they need immediate access to supports in order to make a change. That moment doesn't necessarily happen on the weekdays, during business hours, and if supports miss that window its more likely a person will fall back into the cycle of addiction," NDP mental health and addictions critic Bernadette Smith said in a statement.

Dr. Erin Knight, medical co-lead of the walk-in clinics, said the locations provide Manitobans with same-day care, or in general, shortly thereafter.

"That's a change in our system, where previously people had to often book an appointment that was several weeks in advance to be able to access care," Knight told the news conference.

"We've heard over and over again from clients and from family members that that ability to just walk in and access care when people are ready has really improved the ability to get engaged in care."

The province also runs RAAM clinics in Brandon, Selkirk, Thompson and Portage la Prairie.

No discussion with church leadership: Gordon

Meanwhile, Gordon faced questions for the first time Monday on Springs Church, which received backlash for holding an indoor maskless graduation event this month while indoor gatherings were still banned. She confirmed Monday she remains a member of the church.

She said she has not spoken to church leadership following her written statement in which she expressed disappointment at the church for holding the event. Gordon said she didn't want to interfere while an investigation was underway.

As of last week, the province has not issued tickets to Springs Church, but officials continue to investigate. An update on enforcement penalties for flouting pandemic health orders is expected to be issued on Tuesday. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ian Froese

Provincial Affairs Reporter

Ian Froese covers provincial politics and its impact for CBC Manitoba. He previously reported on a bit of everything for newspapers. You can reach him at ian.froese@cbc.ca.

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