WINNIPEG -- The Manitoba government announced it is investing $3.5 million to enhance mental health services at the Health Sciences Centre in Winnipeg.

Health Minister Cameron Friesen made the announcement on Wednesday saying the money will go towards a new unit, as well as additional addictions, mental health, and security staff for the facility’s emergency department.

“This investment is the first phase of a broader strategy to create a more appropriate and more focused care for mental health and addictions patients as part of our Safer Streets, Safer Lives Action Plan,” Friesen said.

The new staff will include an on-site addiction physician or psychiatrist for weekend and evening shifts, mental health nurses, and security staff.

Friesen said on-site addiction physicians and psychiatrists have previously only been available by phone or remotely on weekends and evenings.

“(The funding) will create new psychiatric liaison nurse positions to assist in that treatment. It will create new security positions here at Health Sciences Centre, understanding that this is place where we need to keep patients safe, we need to keep visitors safe and we need to keep the people who work here safe.”

The province added that it expects these new resources to help reduce wait times for the hospital and help to decrease the offload times for police officers dropping off patients at the emergency department.

“I know this will be important, not only for the Winnipeg Police Service, but other law enforcement teams across the province,” said Justice Minister Cliff Cullen.

“We want to ensure that obviously people are safe, the employees are safe, and obviously we want to make sure that our police officers are getting back to the frontlines, where we really want them to do the good work that they are doing.”

HSC’s new unit will include six more beds and two safe seclusion rooms, which will be used to stabilize people severely intoxicated by drugs or alcohol, as well as those experiencing meth-related psychosis.

Friesen said the beds are “designed to help with the ability to help people expeditiously out of the emergency departments and into beds.”

Addiction outreach workers will also be hired to support the patients discharged from the unit.

Friesen said this $3.5 million investment addresses recommendations in the VIRGO and Illicit Drug Task Force reports.