A three-year pilot program to school and assist children and youth with behavioural or psychiatric issues is coming to an end in August due to a lack of students.
Central Alberta Child and Family Services, Alberta Education and the former David Thompson Health Region’s mental health department partnered to provide $400,000 for the first year of the Day Treatment Program run by Parkland Youth Homes.
Rhonda Coubrough, spokesperson with child and family services, said in January that only five of the eight spaces were filled.
Enrolment has fluctuated this school year. Currently, seven children are participating.
“We have now two and a half years of data that demonstrated while the program was achieving good results for the children participating, it was under-utilized, so the partners made the decision to discontinue the pilot,” Coubrough said.
Staff worked with students aged 11 to 18, whose moderate to severe behavioural or psychiatric issues have created problems in life and learning.
One father, who did not want his family to be identified, said he doesn’t know what his 14-year-old son will do without the program.
“He’s a different person now than when he started the program.
“But he still needs a world of help and they’re taking that help away,” the father said.
His son was diagnosed with severe clinical depression and severe anxiety in Grade 6.
“He missed pretty much all of Grade 7 because we could not get him to go to school.
“With his anxiety level, he cannot function in a normal school. He has a hard time even going to the mall to buy something because of the people around. He will not eat in a restaurant.”
Red Deer Public School District has been operating the school portion of the program aimed at helping students re-enter the regular school system.
The father said just two weeks ago Parkland staff said that his son may never be ready to go back to a regular school.
“Now we’re stuck in a position we don’t know what to do. There’s nowhere to go.”
The father hopes parents with children in the program will work together to let the province know how much it’s still needed.
Coubrough said the day program was just a different way the different partners could work together to help children.
“We’ll continue to serve them, just not through an integrated program.”
Bruce Buruma, community relations director for Red Deer Public, said there has been an increase in students with mental health issues, but there wasn’t a demand for the program.
Depending on their needs, students have either attended regular or alternative school programs.
“We have an extensive range of alternative school programs that are meeting the needs of some of those students.
“We also have a lot of different kinds of interventions available to students through regular programming,” Buruma said.