Province expands mental health and addiction services

The province announced this week that there will be service expansions to mental health and addiction programs for Albertans.

The government is expanding support for people with complex mental health and addiction needs in the community, including investing in outreach and wrap-around services in support of affordable housing initiatives and providing more support for programs and services at Alberta Hospital Edmonton, said Fred Horne, minister of health and wellness.

Coordinating and supporting programs with other government ministries and social agencies will help promote independent living for Albertans with addiction and mental health issues – particularly those living in the inner city – and aid Alberta’s 10-year plan to end homelessness, he said.

Examples include providing outreach workers to help clients take medications appropriately, learn living skills such as food preparation, budgeting, housekeeping and hygiene and help with maintaining social supports so they can live as independently as possible.

Horne said these wrap-around services will also help avoid the need for patients to visit the emergency department to access support.

Other areas set to see bolstered support include greater access to psychology and other counseling services in primary health care settings and expanding the Mental Health Capacity Building in Schools Initiative to more schools.

This includes providing more family counseling, pre- and post-natal screening for depression, support for the elderly and information for parents on addiction, mental health, parenting skills, family violence, and child abuse.

Enhancing other school-based supports for children and youth is part of the province’s plan as well.

“Enhanced support for some of the most vulnerable in society and reaching out to children and youth are critical,” said Horne.

Enhancing the Mental Health Capacity Building in Schools initiative will increase resiliency and provide awareness and support to students around mental health, suicide prevention, bullying prevention, addiction prevention and tobacco reduction programs.

It will also provide outreach workers, supports for early development programs such as the Head Start program, home visitation and resources for parents of high-risk children and school and community-based programs.

Horne said the province has earmarked $25 million in this year’s budget to implement these first initiatives from the provincial addiction and mental health strategy.

Sixteen government ministries worked with stakeholders in the addiction and mental health community across Alberta to determine where programs are most needed, he said.