Steinbach MLA and Education Minister Kelvin Goertzen announced that the Manitoba government is investing $4.4 million to enhance access to school-based mental health and addictions supports, beginning in Steinbach, Brandon and Portage la Prairie.
“This innovative initiative allows for enhanced access to supports prior to requiring a referral to other community services or regional health authority programs,” said Education Minister Kelvin Goertzen. “These additional resources will reduce wait times for children and youth attempting to access supports at community clinics, strengthen inter-agency co-ordination, and provide parents and families with a voice and choice in the treatment plans for their children.”
“We know that an increasing number of children and youth struggle with mental health issues,” said Health, Seniors and Active Living Minister Cameron Friesen. “By investing in additional mental health supports within schools, we are making it easier for families to access a range of services to help their children and making a positive difference in their lives.”
This three-year investment will enhance existing school-based clinical teams with psychiatric nurses and addiction support workers. In partnership with school divisions, the Manitoba Adolescent Treatment Centre, regional health authorities and the Addictions Foundation of Manitoba, teams will provide mental health services directly in schools and support students with moderate mental health and addictions needs.
High Fidelity Wraparound facilitators will be assigned to work at schools alongside existing school-based clinical teams to improve the well-being of students who require these services. The wraparound approach creates teams with members from many systems. They work to create an integrated, highly individualized plan that includes the co-ordination of existing services, as well as the development of new or non-traditional supports to address complex emotional and behavioural challenges. Wraparound is an ongoing process that may last for many months or even years.
The initiative will be piloted in the Hanover, Portage la Prairie and Brandon school divisions in years one and two of the project. Based on the outcomes of these investments, the project is anticipated to be scaled up to 12 teams in the third year, Goertzen noted.
“Hanover School Division is acutely aware of the increasing number of students suffering from mental health issues,” said Randy Dueck, superintendent and CEO of the Hanover School Division. “The social and emotional well-being of our students is a top priority for us over the next three years. This timely additional funding strengthens our community service partnerships, addresses critical needs and is on target to improve the well-being of our students.”
Friesen noted the investments build on recommendations made in the VIRGO report.
“These supports do not duplicate or replace mental health supports currently available for children and adolescents in regional health authorities and community agencies,” said Friesen. “Instead, the enhanced access to these services will help us reach more children sooner, reducing the need for more complex care in the future.”