The province has committed "more than $342,000 to provide emergency telepsychiatry assessments to rural emergency departments and First Nations communities without current access to these services," a media release stated Thursday.
The program is expected to begin this fall and will secure video conferencing equipment to connect people with a real-time psychiatric assessment in rural and northern communities as well as appropriate supports and resources, the release from the province said.
In a press conference on Thursday, Mental Health, Wellness and Recovery Minister Audrey Gordon said there is a need for adult emergency telepsychiatry services in First Nations communities and rural emergency departments and nursing stations. The telepsychiatry program is aimed at delivering real-time care through secure video conferencing.
"Accessing psychiatric assessments for individuals experiencing a mental health crisis can be particularly challenging in remote and rural communities," the release said.
The province will be pull from existing resources across the province, potentially placing more strain on a system already stressed from 18 months of a pandemic. Gordon said there will be recruitment for psychiatrists for the new program, acknowledging that the system does have strains and that the intention is not to add to it. She believes by not moving individuals out of their communities to bring them to larger cities for mental health supports, it will improve their health outcomes and "ensure they receive services close to home."
The video conferencing will provide health-care staff in a rural setting or northern community the ability to speak with a psychiatrist to help in their assessment and consult for the individual, Gordon explained.
"This is in addition to the services currently available to individuals right now across the province, so we’re enhancing those services by making consultations with the health-care professionals."
Between 350 and 500 patients across Manitoba will be supported by the program.
The move is part of a five-year action plan to help shape the strategic priorities of the newly created ministry of mental health, wellness and recovery. Gordon said a public engagement campaign will begin this fall, gathering input from Manitobans and stakeholders.
"This will ensure services and programs are meeting the needs of Manitobans."
Gordon is seeking feedback from the public to help in the upcoming consultation planning and approach of the plan. See engagemb.ca for more information.