New security measures implemented at Eden Mental Health Centre in Winkler appear to be working well.

Two on-site security guards were hired in June which now allows Eden to admit patients with mental illness who display violent behaviour or where there is a potential for violent behaviour.

In the past, local police services had to be used to guard these clients until they were transferred to appropriate health facilities outside of the region for treatment. In many cases, a police officer would have to spend multiple days watching the client, which meant pulling the officer away from his or her regular duties in the community.

Cheryl Harrison, executive director for the west area of Southern Health RHA says their reliance on local police has eased considerably since security at Eden was improved. "Essentially, what we've been able to do is to improve access to services, improve the flow, ensure that police are concentrating on their roles in the community as opposed to sitting with a client within a local emergency department. Now the police...are not spending hours and hours with that individual anymore. They are released more quickly back to their role in the community and providing police services in the community."

Harrison points out, while the time commitment for police support has been reduced, it hasn't been eliminated. "They will continue to play a role in accompanying individuals to the hospital emergency department whenever it's necessary.

The beefed-up security has also allowed Eden to expand its scope of services to treat patients displaying violence with psychosis. In turn, those additional services offered at Eden have had a positive impact on other services in the community. "It will have had a direct impact on patient wait times in Boundary Trails Health Centre. Patients are not waiting in Boundary Trails Health Centre to necessarily be transferred elsewhere outside of Southern Health. Now individuals are able to access services within Eden Mental Health Centre."

The issue of health facility security was becoming more urgent each year with a significant rise in meth use in the Pembina Valley, as meth users can be a danger to themselves, healthcare staff and the general public.