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Helping kids improve their mental health in schools

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Alberta’s government is expanding mental health supports in schools to support positive mental health outcomes for children and youth.

Children and youth in Alberta deserve to be supported in improving their mental health, building resiliency and living healthy lives. As part of building Alberta’s recovery-oriented systems of care, Budget 2023 provides $4 million to expand the Integrated School Support Program (ISSP) so more young Albertans can build resilience and improve their mental well-being.

Led by the Calgary Police Youth Foundation, the ISSP offers critical supports that range from meal programs and structured physical education to after-school care and access to a mental health professional.

“When it comes to youth mental health, prevention and early intervention are critical. We’re proud to partner with the Calgary Police Youth Foundation to expand mental health supports to schools across the province, where they can make a real difference in the lives of young Albertans.”

Nicholas Milliken, Minister of Mental Health and Addiction

“Every student deserves to go to school and experience positive mental health, which is why our government is committed to continuing to work across ministries to develop critical programming and resources to ensure that all students are supported. Programs such as ISSP, among many other government-funded mental health projects across the province, are all valuable building blocks for a student’s success in and out of the classroom.”

Adriana LaGrange, Minister of Education

This funding is in addition to recently announced funding of $10 million to expand CASA Mental Health Classrooms, a classroom-based program where students with complex mental health needs receive individual and group therapy. Through this program, students are supported by a team of mental health professionals, including a therapist, psychiatrist and behavioural specialist. In total, through Budget 2023, Alberta Mental Health and Addiction is providing $14 million to expand mental health supports in schools across the province.

“The services offered through the Integrated School Support Program mean all students have daily access to nutrition, physical education, professional mental health services, after-school care, and access to police officers who are supportive and trusted adults – all without leaving their school. The goal is to improve the social, emotional and physical well-being of students and help them thrive in every area of their lives.”

Bonita Croft, board chair, Calgary Police Youth Foundation

“The Calgary Board of Education has seen first-hand the benefits of the ISSP at Patrick Airlie School and most recently at Radisson Park School. Through the support and wraparound services, we can address a variety of needs for this diverse community and ultimately improve academic performance, as well as the social, emotional and physical well-being of students.”

Laura Hack, chair, Calgary Board of Education

The $4-million expansion of ISSP will take place in two phases. The first phase will include expanding the program to 10 more schools in communities across the province. ISSP is expected to be available in the following schools later this spring:

  • George Davison Elementary School in Medicine Hat
  • G.H. Dawe School in Red Deer
  • Lawrence Grassi Middle School in Canmore
  • Mother Teresa School in Medicine Hat
  • St. Bernadette Catholic Elementary School in Edmonton
  • St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic Elementary/Junior High School in Edmonton
  • St. Nicholas Catholic Junior High School in Edmonton
  • St. Paul School in Lethbridge
  • W.A. Day Elementary School in Fort Macleod
  • Wheatland Elementary School in Strathmore

While ISSP focuses on prevention and early intervention, children who need additional help will be referred through 211 to other services in their community. Alberta’s government recently doubled funding for 211, from $7.5 million to more than $15 million over three years, to meet growing demand and introduce specialized navigation supports that provide families with referrals to critical community-based supports, including mental health and addiction services, primary care and social services.

An additional $2.3 million over three years has been allocated to evaluate the impact of ISSP and other child and youth mental health supports provided through the Child and Youth Health Services Initiative. The evaluation will be led by the University of Calgary’s Mathison Centre for Mental Health Research and Education, and findings will inform and improve the delivery of mental health services for children, youth and families across the province.

Budget 2023 secures Alberta’s future by transforming the health care system to meet people’s needs, supporting Albertans with the high cost of living, keeping our communities safe and driving the economy with more jobs, quality education and continued diversification.

Quick facts

  • Budget 2023 provides $4 million in funding, which brings the total funding for the Integrated School Support Program (ISSP) to $12 million since 2021-22. The $4 million in 2023-24 includes $3.5 million for 22 psychologists, with the remaining funding allocated for other staff and administrative costs.
  • Budget 2023 also provides $10 million in operating funding annually to CASA to provide new and expanded mental health services, including mental health classrooms across the province.
  • Alberta Education is investing $50 million in 2023-24 to support more than 80 mental health pilot projects across the province to improve K-12 students’ well-being.
  • Budget 2023 includes almost $1.5 billion from Alberta Education in Learning Support funding for Alberta’s most vulnerable students, those with specialized learning needs and those requiring additional help at school.
  • ISSP currently supports children aged four to 12 and is currently offered at four schools in Calgary and will be expanded to 20 more schools, for a total of 24 over the next two years. ISSP will be in 10 more schools later this spring as part of Phase 1 of the expansion.
  • The Child and Youth Health Services Initiative provides $87 million in funding for prevention, early intervention and school-based addiction and mental health supports, as well as pediatric rehabilitation supports. It is a joint initiative between the ministries of Mental Health and Addiction and Health, working with Alberta Health Services and community partners.
  • Albertans of all ages can contact 211 for information on mental health services in their community, including other virtual supports like Kids Help Phone.

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View this announcement online