Manitoba spending $225K to add nurse therapist, social worker to aid youths with eating disorders

The province is recognizing Eating Disorders Awareness Week for the first time, and kicked it off by making a funding announcement targeting young persons.

Manitoba will be providing $224,667 to expand capacity of the child and adolescent eating disorders program at Winnipeg’s Health Sciences Centre, Mental Health and Community Wellness Minister Janice Morley-Lecomte announced Monday at the John Buhler research centre on the University of Manitoba’s Bannatyne campus.

The annual funding contribution will also improve access and reduce wait times for children and youth.

The funding will be used to hire a nurse therapist and a social worker. Both will help support up to 80 more families annually in the hospital-based program.

“It is important to help people understand the connection between eating disorders and other co-occurring conditions or intersections of mental health conditions, trauma and systemic challenges,” Morley-Lecomte said.

Eating disorders can have a significantly harmful impact on a person’s physical, social and psychological well-being.

A lady stands in front of a microphone.
Val Mondor, director of health services, mental health at Health Sciences Centre in Winnipeg, believes the province’s eating disorders funding announcement is big boost for people and their families who requires access to those services. (Bert Savard/CBC)

They can also affect how a student performs at school, as well as someone’s ability to work and socialize, says Val Mondor, director of health services, mental health at Health Sciences Centre.

“Eating disorders affect families, friends and loved ones, and can be experienced by people of all genders, ages and socio-economic statuses,” she said.

Mondor believes the funding will ensure more people will be able to access services to treat eating disorders.

“With more supports like the funding announced [Monday], we can truly make a difference for the people who are struggling, as well as their families and their loved ones,” she said.

Elaine Stevenson, whose daughter Alyssa died from anorexia in 2002 at the age of 24, says the province’s funding announcement provides families with much-needed hope, relief and support.

“As a parent, it is so agonizing to finally have your child understand the critical need for treatment only to find that there are no services available for many months,” she said. “You worry about your child’s health declining, and that they may require emergency services.”

Stevenson believes eating disorders remain stigmatized, and that social media can be “toxic” for some people with eating disorders.

She encourages anyone who knows of a person with an eating disorder to help them “to feel seen, to feel heard and to feel understood and supported, and most of all that they are loved.”

Additional annual funding

The province also announced it is providing $610,000 in ongoing annual funding for the expansion of the adult eating disorders program at Health Sciences, plus more than $300,000 for the provincial eating disorder prevention and recovery program (PEDPRP) at the Women’s Health Clinic.

A lady stands and speaks into a microphone in front of a blue background.
Morley-Lecomte announces an additional $910,000 in funding to expand the adult eating disorders program at Health Sciences, as well as the provincial eating disorder prevention and recovery program at the Women’s Health Clinic. (Bert Savard/CBC)

PEDPRP, which offers outpatient, community-based treatment as well as dietitian services, had 131 people on its waiting list as of Jan. 25, according to Stevenson.

The funding builds upon the province’s previous investments to enhance and expand eating disorder services, as recommended in the 2018 VIRGO report.

In July 2020, the province increased capacity at the adult eating disorders program, and developed a nutrition clinic that provides meal supports for inpatients and individuals receiving care in the community.

There is currently no wait time to access the nutrition clinic, according to the minister.

In October 2021, the province committed an additional $303,000 in annual funding through a COVID-19 emergency expenditure to reduce wait times at PEDPRP.

Morley-Lecomte acknowledged that the COVID-19 pandemic increased the demand for eating disorder supports and services.  It’s important that Manitobans have access to these supports and treatment services when they need them, she said.

“Our investments to expand the eating disorders programs at the Health Sciences Centre and the Women’s Health Clinic, have contributed to reduced times for those programs to ensure more Manitobans have access to needed support and treatment,” Morley-Lecomte said.

Eating Disorders Awareness Week runs from Feb. 1 to 7.

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