The provincial government announced nearly $3 million in funding Monday to improve mental-health services for youths in Manitoba.
During a morning news conference at NorWest Youth Hub and Community Food Centre, Justice Minister Cliff Cullen said Monday’s announcement would mark the first of more than a dozen mental-health and addictions-related initiatives the government plans to reveal before the end of the year.
Health Minister Cameron Friesen kicked things off with news of $823,000 going to the NorWest Youth Hub over the next three years.
The facility on Tyndall Avenue provided services to about 2,100 youth last year and will be able to boost that amount by 25 per cent thanks to the government funding, executive directors Nancy Heinrichs and Ken Grove said.
Heinrichs said NorWest has been looking for government funding for years and Monday's move is the first investment they will accept, having previously relied on private donations.
"It’s a dream of ours to have this funding. Truthfully, a dream that we can serve our youth in a different way and an ongoing basis," she said.
The directors noted their hub will be able to hire more staff, who can provide more counselling, psychologist appointments, primary health care visits and recreation opportunities for youths.
Friesen told reporters afterward the government would like to invest more in similar third-party groups to provide mental health services for youth everywhere in the province, not just in Winnipeg.
"What we’re interested in doing is making investments where they can be the most effective, to places like NorWest," he said.
Education Minister Kelvin Goertzen also announced $621,000 for Project 11, an offshoot of the True North Youth Foundation that teaches kindergarten to Grade 8 students about mental-health awareness and positive coping strategies, both online and in person.
Last, Families Minister Heather Stefanson pledged $1.5 million to expand distribution of thrival kits to kids in grades 4-6. The kits are currently used in classrooms to teach students about wellness.
As the Free Press reported last year, the thrival kits were developed in partnership with the office of the Manitoba Advocate for Children and Youth and the Canadian Mental Health Association to teach eight- to 12-year-old children about mental-health awareness, through activities such as meditation and yoga.
As the government pointed out Monday, almost one in four Manitobans over the age of 10 is dealing with a diagnosed mood or anxiety disorder. Also, 75 per cent of mental illness onsets occur before the age of 24.
Jessica Botelho-Urbanski covers the Manitoba Legislature for the Winnipeg Free Press.
Updated on Monday, October 7, 2019 at 1:39 PM CDT: Updated