The province announced Tuesday that youth counsellors from the Addictions Foundation of Manitoba will now be available at locations across Winnipeg to improve access for young people seeking substance use services.

This move comes after independent consultants made recommendations to improve services in the province in the Virgo report.

“The VIRGO report on mental health and addictions recommended improving access and co-ordination of mental health and addiction services in Manitoba,” said Health minister Cameron Friesen in a news release. 

He added: “The needs of youth are evolving and it is vital that we keep services grounded in the community. Co-locating these services at different sites allows counsellors to be both aware of emergent trends and able to adapt their responses to new or evolving issues.”

This move comes after three months of planning and consultation, with counsellors being placed at agencies where youth can access a wide range of support, including health and mental health services, housing, and employment.

The nine agencies that will now offer AFM youth counselling services are: 

  • Access Fort Garry, 
  • Aikins Street Community Health Centre,
  • Centre de Santé Sainte-Boniface,
  • Eagle Urban Transition,
  • Macdonald Youth Services,
  • Ma Mawi Wi Chi Itata Centre,
  • New Directions,
  • Ndinawemaaganag Endaawaad, and
  • the StreetReach Program.

The province notes that bringing counsellors to these agencies will create an easier referral process for services and treatment at AFM.

“Mental health and substance use problems arising at earlier stages of development can have significant long-term impacts for youth without adequate support and services,” said Ben Fry, chief executive officer at AFM, in the news release. “These changes will enhance pathways to referrals and improve access for youth, including those with complex needs.”

Young people who already receive support from AFM will continue to receive services from their current counsellor or one who is closer to where they live.

Between April 2018 and March 2019, the foundation’s community-based youth services received 478 admissions in Winnipeg.