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Manitoba Government News Release–The Manitoba government has begun the consultation phase on the development of a five-year action plan for growing and adapting the work needed to support a strong, co-ordinated system for prevention, treatment and recovery, Mental Health, Wellness and Recovery Minister Audrey Gordon announced today.

“As a government, we are committed to making mental health, wellness and recovery services co-ordinated, effective and results oriented,” said Gordon. “Several reports have been commissioned in the last several years, and many of these recommendations have been implemented. We are building on this work to create a five-year action plan for mental health, wellness and recovery to inform priority areas and make it easier for Manitobans to find and access the right care at the right time and in the right place.”
Manitoba Mental Health, Wellness and Recovery was created in January 2021, bringing together over 600 full-time equivalent positions and a $332-million budget from across government to create a single ministry focused on the mental health and wellness of Manitobans. The department’s work focuses on providing mental health and addictions supports and treatments to improve the lives of Manitobans in their journey through recovery and healing.

A preliminary five-year action plan has been created to help shape the strategic priorities of the department, building on themes identified in the VIRGO and other recent reports looking to improve Manitoba’s mental health and addictions services.
There are five key areas of focus in the action plan based on the recommendations from these reports including:
• evidence-based, quality, data-driven services;
• service access and co-ordination;
• substance use and recovery;
• population health and wellness; and
• service governance and accountability.

“While many reports have been used to develop our preliminary action plan, it is not set in stone. It is essential for partners, stakeholders and the public to contribute to finalizing this plan,” said Gordon. “These consultations are invaluable in shaping the direction and focus of the department, and we want to hear the thoughts of key stakeholders and the public as we move forward to help ensure services and programs are meeting the needs of Manitobans.”

The five-year action plan, built on the work of previous reports, will help shape the strategic priorities of the department and set the direction for years to come. This high-level plan will outline the priorities and action items to help enhance mental health, addictions, wellness and health promotion services in Manitoba.

The minister noted government’s role will be to provide overall direction to improve access to and the co-ordination of the system, and support the work of the service delivery organizations and community-based agencies that provide direct patient care, including the NorWest Youth Hub.

“The NorWest Youth Hub has seen an unprecedented demand from youth for mental health services,” said Nancy Heinrichs, executive director of NorWest Coop Community Health. “From January 2020 to March 2021 we have seen a 500 per cent increase in referrals for counselling. We anticipate this demand will continue long after we emerge from COVID-19.”

The NorWest Youth Hub has received funding for additional counselling and psychologist appointments, primary care visits and mental health support group sessions, which has allowed NorWest to increase the number of youth served at the hub by approximately 150 per year.

“I love the concept of the youth hub, it’s honestly saved my life,” said a youth hub client. “I’m also super glad the programs offered are free.”

A request for proposals has been issued to hire a consultant to help lead stakeholder consultations sessions with internal and external stakeholders including service delivery organizations, community agencies and other departments, which will take place over the summer. In addition, a public engagement campaign will begin this fall and will include a variety of engagement opportunities to gather input from Manitobans.

The minister noted the completed five-year action plan will be released publicly before the end of the year.

For more information on the preliminary action plan, to sign up to be notified when public consultations begin and to take a short survey, visit https://engagemb.ca/mental-health.