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Caring for soldiers' emotional health

Minister brings $3.9M for health centre at 17 Wing

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 27/7/2011 (3376 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Defence Minister Peter MacKay and Public Safety Minister Vic Toews pop in to 17 Wing Tuesday to announce funding.

KEN GIGLIOTTI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Defence Minister Peter MacKay and Public Safety Minister Vic Toews pop in to 17 Wing Tuesday to announce funding.

The health centre at 17 Wing will be upgraded to better treat soldiers suffering from the physical and mental effects of war, Defence Minister Peter MacKay said during a brief stop at 17 Wing on Tuesday.

The federal government will spend $3.9 million for upgrades to the base health-services centre, which is almost six decades old.

"We are coming to grips with a whole generation of new veterans who are coming back from service in theatres of war," said MacKay to service members gathered at the officers' mess.

"The improvements to the clinic at 17 Wing will ensure that Canadian Forces personnel in Winnipeg will continue to receive the full spectrum of first-class health care that they so rightly deserve."

The facility has been without space for mental-health services that clinic administrators have requested for the better part of a decade.

"It'll increase the space (we) have for mental health, which is critical because (we) currently don't have enough space to hire all the people we're supposed to have," said Lt.-Cmdr. Julia Roy.

The 17 Wing clinic serves nearly 4,000 military personnel on the base as well as thousands of service members from elsewhere in the province.

Soldiers are more likely to suffer from depression than the rest of the Canadian population. And service personnel returning from deployments struggle with myriad issues, from reintegrating into their families to coping with traumatic bodily injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder.

"The unseen scars are just as traumatic as the seen ones," said Roy.

Mental-health nurse Mary Fuhr said the clinic is currently at full capacity for mental-health services.

"Somehow we're able to accommodate it all," said Fuhr. "Despite the demand, we're able to accommodate it."

The clinic must stretch its resources to meet the needs of Manitoba's military personnel. The Operational Stress Injury Clinic at the Deer Lodge Centre and the WRHA's Northern Connection Medical Centre downtown help by providing some services.

Soldiers based at CFB Shilo near Brandon have their own health-services centre but reservists and military personnel from the rest of Manitoba and some from northern Ontario and parts of Saskatchewan rely on health services provided by 17 Wing.

The Canadian Forces Health Services is the designated health-care provider for Canada's military. It provides health-care benefits and services, medical and dental, to armed forces members.

The $3.9 million will pay to renovate the existing clinic and create new spaces for mental-health services, including a family or group therapy room and an assessment room.

A new psychologist and a new social worker will also be brought on permanently and space will be created for the staff addictions specialist.

The renovations are expected to be completed by next fall.

meghan.potkins@freepress.mb.ca

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