August 11, 2009

Province Moves Forward with Canada's First Mental-Health Crisis-Response Centre

Canada's first stand-alone, mental-health crisis-response centre is moving forward with a proposed location on the Health Sciences Centre campus where it will provide centralized services while easing pressure on emergency room visits, Premier Gary Doer announced today.

"Until now, emergency rooms have been the first point of contact for thousands of people experiencing a mental-health crisis in Winnipeg each year," said Doer. "Once complete, this new centre will offer around-the clock mental-health crisis services, providing much-needed specialized services while redirecting a number of individuals going to emergency rooms."

The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority is proposing the new, community based centre be located west of the Health Sciences Centre on Bannatyne Avenue, pending final zoning approval. There will also be broader discussions with the community as the project moves forward.

The new centre will provide a central point of access for people experiencing a mental-health crisis seven days a week, 24 hours a day including walk-in care. Services planned for the centre include:

  • medical and mental-health screening and assessment,

  • crisis intervention and initial treatment services, and

  • psychiatric consultation.

The centre will also provide linkages and referrals to specialized treatment, rehabilitation and support services for individuals with mental health issues and those with co-occurring mental-health and addiction issues.

"The new integrated mental-health crisis-response centre will greatly benefit service users and their families. Clients will have increased access to a greater range of crisis services in a much more timely fashion," said Nicole Chammartin, executive director of Canadian Mental Health Association Winnipeg. "With a range of crisis services co-ordinated under one roof, there will be increased efficiency and co-ordination. We are confident that this will result in fewer hospitalizations and relapses for those using crisis services in Winnipeg."

Milton Sussman, the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority's vice-president of community health services, said the centre evolved from recommendations and input of users of mental-health services and their families about their needs during a mental-health crisis. He said it will also follow up on one of the long-term recommendations of the Emergency Care Task Force.

"The task force members and the mental-health community recognized the needs of individuals in a mental-health crisis are better met outside the emergency department structure," he said. "Having a designated facility that provides appropriate interventions in a timely manner will meet the needs of individuals in a mental-health crisis and will also reduce the strain on emergency departments. The vision is for the crisis response centre to be a centre of excellence in mental-health crisis intervention."

Currently in the design stage, construction is expected to start as soon as the summer of 2010.

The premier noted today's mental-health crisis centre announcement builds on other recent investments in emergency departments including:

  • Creating a new emergency medicine department at the University of Manitoba.

  • Increasing emergency department physicians' payment schedules in 2007 to recognize their critical role in patient care.

  • Adding physician assistants to the front lines of emergency care.

  • Expanding the role of nurse practitioners across the province by providing funding for positions in emergency departments and primary-care settings.

  • Appointing Dr. Ricardo Lobato de Faria as provincial advisor on emergency patient care.

  • Adding more front-line staff for Manitoba's busiest emergency departments including $5.2 million in funding for staffing announced in March 2009.

  • Modernizing emergency departments across the province. Construction is under way on St. Boniface and Victoria emergency departments and new emergency departments are already open at the Health Sciences Centre and the Children's, Concordia and Seven Oaks hospitals. Outside of Winnipeg, construction is underway on a new emergency department in Portage la Prairie and new emergency departments are being designed for Selkirk and Steinbach. This builds on new emergency departments already open in Brandon, Swan River, The Pas, Gimli and Morden/Winkler.

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