Expanding mental health support in schools

Supports will be available for the upcoming school year.

The provincial government is investing $87 million into mental health and pediatric rehabilitation supports for children and youth over three years.

New funding of $42 million will be used to increase access to mental wellness supports and clinical mental health supports in schools over the next three years.

“Children and youth in Alberta deserve the opportunity to improve their mental health and be supported in their wellness. As part of a recovery-oriented system of care, we are ensuring that kids have the supports they need in schools to achieve their full potential and live healthy and happy lives,” Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Mike Ellis said.

Mental health supports will be available for the upcoming school year to communities in the Calgary and Edmonton zones.

Supports include offering connections to existing community resources for families to access services, a government of Alberta media release said.

For students with complex needs, specialized clinical services will be available through mental health classrooms.

A therapist, psychiatrist, classroom behavioural specialist, nurse, social worker, educational psychologist, speech and language therapist, and occupational therapist will be available in the mental health classrooms.

Funding will also help expand the Integrated School Support Program (ISSP), which provides children and youth with prevention and early intervention supports to improve mental health, wellness and quality of life by building strength and resilience, the release said.

ISSP is led by the Calgary Police Youth Foundation and includes supports in schools such as meal programs, after-school care, structured physical education and access to mental health professionals.

“The wraparound, universal services provided through our Integrated School Support Program mean students have access to nutrition, physical education, professional mental health services, and trusted adults and after-school care all available within the school. These supports are intended to improve academic performance and the social, emotional and physical well-being of the students. Thank you to the provincial government for supporting this work and providing this opportunity for children and youth to thrive,” Calgary Police Youth Foundation executive director Susan Cron said.

The new supports are in addition to the $10 million that has been allocated to support pilot projects that are focused on improving the delivery of mental health supports and services for students.

Another $45 million will be used to increase access to pediatric rehabilitation services and programs, including speech-language, occupational and physical therapy.

The support will be offered by Alberta Health Services (AHS) across the province in collaboration with early identification efforts in schools, the release said.

The funding will support establishing a clear intake, triage and access to services, developing universal and targeted resources, expanding eligibility for speech sound delays, and strengthening pediatric rehabilitation.

The funding is in addition to an investment of up to $10 million per year to support increased access to specialized assessments to ensure children and students who may not have had access to specialized assessments during the pandemic, can be assessed by qualified professionals.

The funding also supports other initiatives focused on ensuring all children and youth have access to recovery-oriented addiction and mental health supports, such as pilot projects, youth mental health hubs, Kids Help Phone, and the Youth Recovery Program.

“When students experience positive mental health, they are resilient and better able to learn, achieve success and build healthy relationships. Ensuring students have additional access to more mental health services and programs, including preventative and early intervention services, is essential and adds to the wide variety of supports already available in schools,” Minister of Education Adriana LaGrange said.

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