Beds added to Winnipeg crisis stabilization unit amid pandemic spike in mental-health admissions

Winnipeg’s crisis stabilization unit is getting six more beds to help with a pandemic-induced spike in mental health concerns, the province of Manitoba announced Friday.

“With these six additional beds, we will be able to help more individuals experiencing a mental health crisis in a timely manner,” Audrey Gordon, minister of mental health, wellness and recovery, said during a Friday news conference.

The crisis stabilization unit, which is run by Shared Health, the province’s health organization, provides short-term care and treatment for people in psychiatric crisis who may be at risk of hospitalization.

The expansion will have ongoing annual funding of $500,000.

Increasing capacity at the unit will help free up spaces in hospital emergency departments, which are also under strain due to the pandemic, Gordon said.

“We have seen a high number of mental health-related hospital admissions during the pandemic. That is why this investment is so important,” she said.

The funding will also allow the unit to expand to accept admissions 24 hours a day, beginning Aug. 16.

It will also be used to enhance safety and security on site and add additional clinical and support staff.

The crisis stabilization unit is the intervention program from the Crisis Response Centre. The centre’s medical director says the added beds ‘will help many Manitobans during a difficult time in their lives.’ (CBC)

Dr. James M. Bolton, medical director of the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority’s Crisis Response Centre, called the announcement “a meaningful initiative that will help many Manitobans during a difficult time in their lives.”

“We know offering appropriate supports and compassionate care can make a significant and positive impact on people who are experiencing a mental health crisis,” Bolton said, noting the crisis stabilization unit is the response centre’s intervention program.

“More individuals will be able to come to the unit and learn coping strategies, wellness, planning and preventative techniques, helping them recover and live successful lives in their community.”

To comply with physical distancing requirements during the pandemic, six other stabilization unit beds were transitioned to support virtual care, which became a valuable way of reaching those in need, Bolton said.

“Some people being treated virtually may have children or a job, they may be a student or have other personal responsibilities that may make coming to the facility difficult, or they may simply feel shy or uncomfortable seeking in-person care,” he said.

The funding announced Friday will support the continuation of virtual spaces while the physical beds will become available by mid-August, increasing the total number of crisis stabilization beds to 22.

Bolton said the virtual beds help patients “get the help they need with an ability to connect daily with clinical staff, receive medication reminders, participate in group classes and actively work on their recovery plans, all from the comfort and safety of their own home.”

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