The first week in May is Mental Health Week, and the Manitoba government is increasing access to early intervention and suicide prevention activities for children and youth across the province.
Mental Health and Community Wellness Minister Janice Morley-Lecomte has announced that the provincial government is investing nearly $3 million in new and ongoing funding for mental health service improvements for children and youth across Manitoba.
"Mental health care providers and organizations are commended for their dedication to children, youth and families affected by mental health issues and for the invaluable roles they play in Manitoba’s health-care system," says Morley-Lecomte. "Children and youth who struggle with their mental health are valued and Manitoba’s future is brighter because of them. In addition to Mental Health Week from May 1 to 7, May 7 is National Child and Youth Mental Health Day—a day adults stand together to tell children and youth: you matter, you are loved and we care about you."
As stated by the Manitoba government:
Children and youth will be more encouraged to seek help if discussions about mental health become more common and the stigma is reduced. It also provides important opportunities to share with children, youth and their families that quality, evidence-based and caring support is available.
These Manitoba government investments have led to enhancements of three children and youth mental health programs or services that will improve access to youth-centred, family-connected supports.
Huddle NorWest in Winnipeg recently celebrated its grand reopening at a new, larger location that can provide increased mental health and addictions services, enhanced training and education opportunities and expanded community programming. The Department of Mental Health and Community Wellness has provided $600,000 to support the new location of Huddle NorWest, in addition to ongoing annual funding of $385,000 for this Huddle facility.
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Huddle sites across Manitoba are an innovative initiative that provides a continuum of mental health, substance use and addictions services, primary care, Indigenous programming, peer support and social services on a walk-in basis for children and young adults aged 12 to 29 with no referral required. These services are provided in an accessible, inclusive, one-stop space, making it easy for youth to access the help they need.
"Huddle NorWest is truly excited to provide a safe, bright, welcoming and culturally accessible space for youth," says Nancy Heinrichs, Executive Director of NorWest Co-op Community Health. "We are witnessing a huge increase and great need for youth mental health supports in our community. Huddle NorWest provides integrated care, counselling, wellness, addictions and employment supports to reduce barriers that prevent youth from fully participating in school, work and community."
As well, the Child and Youth Mental Health Services initiative at Health Sciences Centre (HSC) Winnipeg is a multi-staged project that includes the hiring of specialized staff, construction of new physical space and development of service pathways to reduce wait times for children and youth seeking mental health supports.
The Manitoba government has so far invested $4.2 million over three years in this expansion and will invest $2 million annually to support the increased services.
Children and youth aged five to 17 who present at HSC’s Children’s Hospital emergency department receive support that facilitates assessment and matching to appropriate mental health programs and services.
The additional investment will continue to support increased capacity and reduced wait times in multiple programs including:
- Intensive Child and Adolescent Treatment Services;
- Outpatient Mental Health Services;
- Anxiety Disorders Services for Children and Youth; and
- Child and Adolescent Rapid Assessment Clinic.
"Thanks to today’s investment from the province, HSC will have improved facilities with specialized staff, which will increase capacity and reduce the wait times for children and youth in need of mental health services," says Val Mondor, Director of health services and mental health at HSC Winnipeg. "This investment is pivotal in ensuring more young patients and families experiencing challenges will have more timely access to the supports they need."
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In addition, the Manitoba government provides $600,000 annually to the Strongest Families Institute to operate its e-mental health programs for children, youth and adults across Manitoba. The Strongest Families Institute provides free, bilingual, proven skill-based programs to families of children aged three to 17 with mild to moderate mental health and well-being concerns such as anxiety, low mood/depression, disruptive behaviour and/or nighttime bedwetting.
Also, the Strongest Families ICAN adult anxiety, depression and stress-relief program are freely available to parents, caregivers and adults. Strongest Families telephone support coaches help equip children, youth and adults with valuable coping skills.
The minister added that parents and caregivers are now able to directly refer their children to Strongest Families programs and adults can self-refer to the ICAN program, instead of needing a referral from a healthcare provider or school clinician. Professional referrals are also accepted.
"Strongest Families Institute is pleased to be working with the government of Manitoba to help provide more resources to families needing help," says Dr. Patricia Lingley-Pottie, President and CEO of Strongest Families Institute. "Equipping children, youth, caregivers and adults with our life-changing coping skills leads to happier, healthier futures for our children and families. Giving people the option to refer directly to our programs improves access to timely care. It makes it convenient and it is a private, non-judgment space. Families do not need to travel or miss time from work or school. Children, youth and adults alike report having a very strong relationship with their Strongest Families coach."
By referring directly online, clients can schedule appointments with Strongest Families at their convenience. Written referrals from agencies, physicians or other professionals can expect a response within 24 to 48 hours on business days.
This is not an emergency service, so anyone with severe or immediate needs should consult a physician.
Parents and caregivers can refer and receive services for their children online at https://strongestfamilies.com/howtorefer/ or by calling (toll-free) 1-866-470-7111.