The RAAM clinics treat patients dealing with any and all substance-related addictions and are meant to help provide relief to emergency departments. (File image)

The Manitoba government announced on Thursday it is opening a Rapid Access to Addictions Medicine (RAAM) clinic in Portage la Prairie, Man.

“Nearly six per cent of Manitobans will be diagnosed with a substance-use disorder at some point in time,” said Health Minister Cameron Friesen at a news conference.

“We’re learning a lot in Canada, in Manitoba. Globally the issue of addictions is coming into the open. We’re getting rid of the stigma. We’re learning how to meet people at the point of their need and provide the care that they so require.”

RAAM clinics provide assessment, counselling, prescriptions, and help connect people to physicians and treatment programs. An addictions physician and a combination of nurses and counsellors typically staff the clinics.

Friesen said the province is listening to the people who have lived with addictions and learned that once substance-use becomes a problem, people have to wait too long to get the care they need in a coordinated way in the community they live in.

“That’s why immediate action is required when an individual seeks help to address their substance-use issue,” the minister said.

“A strong mental health and addictions system is a key component of our healthcare system.”

The RAAM clinic in Portage la Prairie, which will open in late October, will have two half-day walk-in clinics every week, where patients do not need to make appointments. Registered patients will also be able to make appointments with nurses and counsellors from Monday to Friday.

More information on the walk-in clinic schedule will be available in the coming weeks.

The clinic, which will be located at 159 Fifth Street Southeast, is the sixth of its kind in Manitoba.

“We talk about the changes that we’re making to the healthcare system in Manitoba, changes that are designed to get people care closer to home, that is a key criteria in these services,” Friesen said.

Along with this new clinic, the province announced it has opened a RAAM hub in Winnipeg, which will provide support, mentorship, training, recruitment, and collaborations for all the clinics.

The province has hired a part-time provincial physician and a full-time provincial coordinator for the hub. It has also developed an on-call service to support those providing care to patients at RAAM clinics or patients receiving addictions medication.

“In order for RAAM to be long-term successful, we must socialize the idea to people who provide those services,” Friesen said.

“And if there’s a doctor in Dauphin, if there’s a doctor in Lac du Bonnet, or if there’s a doctor in Souris who says, ‘I would do this work but I feel unsupported.’ Now we know we are building those supports in.”

Since August 2018, nearly 4,000 people have used RAAM services at the provinces five current locations in Selkirk, Brandon, Thompson, and Winnipeg (Crisis Response Centre and AFM Riverpoint).

The province said the investment in the new RAAM clinic and hub is expected to be more than $650,000 a year.