Manitoba expands hours, adds staff at addictions treatment clinics

Manitoba is adding more staff to some of its addictions treatment clinics and expanding hours at one location in Winnipeg, the province says.

A $390,000 annual boost in provincial funding means the rapid access to addictions medicine, or RAAM, clinic at the Mental Health Crisis Response Centre in Winnipeg will be open Saturdays, Mental Health and Community Wellness Minister Sarah Guillemard said at a Wednesday news conference.

That site’s walk-in clinic is currently open on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays, according to Manitoba Shared Health’s website.

“As we continue to see more Manitobans experience harms related to substance use, our government is taking concrete action to ensure a wide range of addictions supports are available to those who need them,” Guillemard said.

The sites in Portage la Prairie and Thompson will also get more staff, she said.

The province has three other rapid access to addictions medicine clinics, which are in Brandon, Selkirk and at the River Point Centre on Magnus Avenue in Winnipeg.

The province is also working with health authorities to improve access to virtual services in certain areas, like the Morden-Winkler area in the Southern Health region, Guillemard said.

The clinics bring addictions treatment together with health services to give patients a variety of supports, Guillemard said. Those include addictions medicine specialists, primary-care providers and community services.

Clinical teams also connect patients with treatment programs and physicians in the community and provide supports, she said, including assessment, counselling and prescribing appropriate medication.

Critics have previously said the operating hours at the RAAM clinics, which the Progressive Conservative government first opened in 2018, are too limited.

Guillemard also pushed back at Wednesday’s news conference on a question about whether the government was acting urgently enough to address the record number of deaths from illicit substances in Manitoba.

“The urgency is the investments we’re making,” she said.

“We’ve got the rapid access to addictions medicine clinics throughout the province that never existed six years ago. We’ve made $10 million in investments to give the treatment and have accessible treatment to individuals who are struggling.”

From September 2018 to August 2022, more than 12,500 people registered for services at the clinics, where people can drop in for help without an appointment or referral, said Ben Fry, executive director of the Addictions Foundation of Manitoba.

“These clinics play a significant role in helping people struggling with substance use and make a positive impact in the lives of many people and families,” Fry said alongside Guillemard.

“If you are a Manitoban struggling with substance use, we want you to know that we are here for you. There is hope and people can and do recover from addiction.”

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