Manitoba's Progressive Conservative government is boosting funding for walk-in mental health services and specialized trauma counselling.
Organizations in Winnipeg that offer these services say the new funding will help them reduce wait lists and serve more clients.
On Monday, Sport, Culture and Heritage Minister Cathy Cox, who is responsible for the status of women, announced an additional $2.4 million in funding for programs operated by Klinic Community Health Centre and the Laurel Centre, which provides services to those struggling from childhood sexual abuse.
The funding, spread over the next three years, will help Klinic expand its drop-in counselling program by an additional eight hours each week, allowing it to take on 100 new clients. It will also allow Klinic to create a seven-day-a-week centralized trauma intake and referral service.
The centre plans to expand its longer-term trauma counselling program, giving it the capacity to help 80 additional clients each year.
Nicole Chammartin, Klinic executive director, said the funding will mean the health centre can operate its drop-in counselling service six days a week.
"This is the largest single investment in our counselling service in decades," she said. "We are extremely grateful to have been heard and to be trusted to help address key service gaps in our community."
The new funding will also allow the Laurel Centre to add 3 1/2 therapy positions, greatly reducing wait lists, said Heather Leeman, the centre's executive director.
Childhood sexual abuse continues to be a serious and widespread issue, Leeman said. In North America, one in three girls and one in six boys will be sexually abused before the age of 18. It occurs at every socio-economic level, across ethnic and cultural lines, and within all religions and education levels, she said.
The trauma associated with childhood sexual abuse affects an individual's mental health, sense of safety, ability to cope with daily challenges, and inclination to form and trust healthy relationships, Leeman said.
"Individuals who have experienced childhood sexual abuse are at greater risk of developing a mental illness and are more likely to use substances as a way of coping," she said.
Leeman said the centre currently has 240 adult women, 99 men, and 22 female-identifying youth on its wait lists.
Without the additional money, these numbers would translate into a three-year waiting period for women, more than five years for men, and 18 months for youth.
The funding will mean, for the first time in 10 years, women contacting the Laurel Centre could potentially only have a one-year wait for therapy, Leeman said.
She said while clients are on long waits for therapy, they can access some short-term therapy and group supports. The centre will also refer them to Klinic's drop-in counselling service and crisis line, so they have some place to turn to for help.
The government said the new funding fulfills a recommendation made in the 2018 Virgo report on improving mental health and addictions services in Manitoba.
Cox said the government plans to announce in the next two months several more initiatives to improve mental health and addictions services.
Earlier this year, it increased support for the NorWest Youth Hub, and it recently launched a pilot project with the Metis Child and Family Services Authority to provide mental health and addictions services.
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Updated on Monday, November 4, 2019 at 4:08 PM CST: Headline changed.