WINNIPEG -- The Manitoba government announced on Wednesday it’s investing $1.1 million to expand the province’s eating disorder programs.

“In Canada, eating disorders are a huge problem,” said Health Minister Cameron Friesen at a news conference.

“It’s a problem in people’s lives. It’s a problem for individuals who experience an eating disorder. It’s a problem for their families, for their social networks, and it’s a problem for women as well, we know that in their lifetimes, it's estimated that five to eight per cent of all women in Canada will experience an eating disorder at some time.”

This money will go towards increasing the number of inpatients beds at the Health Sciences Centre from three to five; creating a safe nutrition clinic; expanding the capacity of outpatient programs; and improving programming for co-existing eating and substance-use disorder patients.

“We know that often it’s a patient’s family and friends that are lifting them up, holding them up, encouraging them, prompting them, sometimes it’s an ear to listen, someone to express empathy, to point them in the right direction when they’re feeling low. That makes the difference,” Friesen said.

According to the province, the funding will also reduce the wait times for both inpatient and outpatient care.

For inpatient care, the wait will go from two to 10 weeks to one to two weeks, and for outpatient care from four to six months to two to three weeks.

The government added this investment will mean the money that has previously been used to send Manitobans out of the province for care can be reinvested into supports within the province. In the first half of 2019, over $500,000 was spent to send five people out of the province for care.

“We know that it’s in the best interest of Manitobans and families struggling with an eating disorder that they have access to quick treatment, closer to their homes, closer to their communities,” the health minister said.

“We know better care sooner is the hallmark of the changes that this government is making in the healthcare system and we know that Manitobans have waited long enough.”

Friesen noted that the VIRGO report highlighted the need for more eating disorder services in Manitoba.

The province said Wednesday’s announcement is one a series of investments the province is making to help Manitobans with mental health and addiction.

The Women’s Health Clinic, which runs an eating disorder prevention program, said they were thrilled to hear of funding to support treatment for eating disorders, but said they were concerned their program did not receive any additional funding. The clinic said in a statement they were also not approached about their need for funding.

“As the only community-based treatment program for eating disorders, we were not at the table for these very important discussions, decisions, and allocation of funds,” a statement from the clinic reads.

The Women’s Health Clinic said the current wait time for service in its eating disorder prevention program is nine months to one year.

“While we applaud the decision today for additional funding, we also want to highlight the need for less intensive community-based services that are in dire need of funds,” the clinic said. “We need to work together to offer a continuum of care where everyone has access to the type of support that is right for them.”