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Mental Health Crisis Response Centre opens

People undergoing a mental health crisis have a new, welcoming and calming place that they can now go to for urgent treatment and support

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People undergoing a mental health crisis have a new, welcoming and calming place that they can now go to for urgent treatment and support.

The Crisis Response Centre (CRC), located at 817 Bannatyne Avenue, opens June 3. In addition to providing 24/7 walkin and scheduled urgent care services, the centre will also serve as a base for the mental health Mobile Crisis Team.

Carolyn Strutt, Regional Director of Adult Mental Health Services with the Winnipeg Health Region, says the new centre represents years of planning.

"This centre is unique in Canada," says Strutt. "No other centre has this constellation of co-ordinated crisis services all together under one roof."

As a result, the centre will play an important role in enhancing the delivery of mental health care in Winnipeg. As Strutt explains, about 10,000 adults in mental health crisis seek help at hospital Emergency Departments each year, and another 10,000 calls are received through the Mobile Crisis Team. But 80 per cent of the people who go to Emergency experiencing acute emotional distress do not need to be admitted to hospital. "Emergency rooms are not the most ideal place to deal with someone experiencing a mental health crisis because of the stimulating and sometimes chaotic environment and the wait times," she says.

The new centre helps address that issue. "The environment and the interventions within the centre are focused on dealing with acute distress and assisting to resolve the immediate crisis. All of the staff are mental health professionals with expertise in the area of crisis resolution," says Strutt.

The centre will provide assistance to people experiencing emotional crisis, severe anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts or dealing with an urgent ongoing mental health condition. The centre’s health team includes crisis specialists with nursing, social work or psychology backgrounds, paraprofessional crisis workers, physician assistants and psychiatrists.

When arriving at the centre, people in crisis will be welcomed by a trained crisis worker. Individuals will then see a mental health clinician and other members of the team, as required for a more complete mental health assessment and urgent treatment. The close proximity to Health Sciences Centre allows staff to refer people if they are suffering from a physical ailment, or call for transport to the Emergency Department.

Nancy Parker, Director of Adult Community Mental Health – Crisis Services, says health professionals will work with individuals, families and others to help stabilize a person’s crisis.

"We’re dealing with a wide spectrum of psychosocial and mental health crisis," says Parker. "You can come to us in terms of walk-in at the Crisis Response Centre, or we can come to you, as the CRC also houses the Mobile Crisis Team, which first responds over the phone and then visits individuals in crisis in their home."

The CRC has also developed a unique electronic health record for crisis services that receives information in real time and promotes collaborative care between clinicians. That means people will not have to repeat their story to different care providers.

Parker, who recently joined the Winnipeg Health Region’s mental health team after working for 30 years in the United States, says the centre has benefitted from community input. "I came here in 2011 and was amazed at the amount of input from the community, from those with lived experience, from families, from mental health-care staff, and from the researchers into what they wanted the new building and walk-in services to be."

The centre will be warm and welcoming, a place of clinical excellence in crisis assessment and intervention. It will also serve as a hub for research into what types of interventions are most effective in helping people in crisis, and ensuring services are meeting the needs of individuals and their families.

In addition to interview and assessment rooms, the 27,370- square-foot, two-storey building also features a spiritual room for smudging.

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