Alberta Premier Jason Kenney shakes hands with Jason Luan, associate minister of mental health and addictions after being sworn into office in Edmonton in 2019. File photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS

Alberta gov’t to expand mental health supports

The Government of Alberta says a $21.6-million investment will expand online resources and virtual supports for people seeking help for mental health and addictions challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

This investment will be the first portion of the $53-million COVID-19 mental health action plan announced in April. This plan aims to help Albertans access resources they require, whenever or wherever they’re needed.

“Many Albertans have needed greater mental health and addiction recovery supports during the pandemic and will continue to need help once it’s over,” said Jason Luan, associate minister of health and addiction.

“This funding is giving more people free access to supports 24-7, and it’s enabling our government to work with our sector partners to develop other innovative supports. We are in this together and we will support Albertans every step of the way.”

Funding aims to enhance mental health and addiction supports, both online and in the community, through international, national and local organizations.

Here is a breakdown of the $21.6 million funding:

  • Expand Kids Help Phone and crisis text line – $1.8 million (previously announced)
  • Expand Addiction Helpline and the Mental Health Helpline – $9.6 million (previously announced)
  • Expansion of 211 – $3 million (previously announced)
  • Big White Wall – $1 million
  • InnoWell – $2 million
  • Community-based supports – $3 million
  • With approximately $1.2 million in capital costs

The government says Albertans will have better access to supports closer to home through enhanced local resources, including online mental health education and support, guidance and brief interventions with a trained counsellor, and improved access to e-mental health treatment with professional support through the InnoWell platform.

InnoWell supports early identification, assessment, and access to a number of e-mental health tools and apps and will be implemented in 10 communities – rural, remote and urban – across Alberta.

Big White Wall is an online community where Albertans can communicate with peers dealing with similar issues and get support 24-7 from addiction and mental health counsellors.

The expansion of and increased capacity for the Addiction and Mental Health Helplines and Alberta 211 came into effect March 27, during the immediate crisis response phase of this funding.

Since then, the Addiction Helpline has responded to more than 1,000 calls and the Mental Health Helpline has responded to more than 3,400 calls.

The Kids Help Phone has also experienced about a 50 per cent increase in demand for their texting service since the start of the pandemic, and in April, the Community and Social Services Helpline (Alberta 211) responded to more than 2,700 calls – more than 400 of which were specific to mental health and substance use disorder.



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