“[It’s] specific to depression, suicidal ideation, friendship issues, all kinds of things that can lead to a downward spiral in mental health, and we know that if students are in that downward spiral, they’re not in able to learn,” he said. .
The board says the division’s budget dollars are earmarked for education rather than mental health supports, with the latter to fall under Alberta’s health portfolio instead of Alberta’s education, believes the division.
The letter goes on to say that in the past school year, 1,811 students and families received mental health support from the division’s approximately 19 family welfare workers and assistants. According to Volkman, the sessions varied from little to a lot depending on the case.
The 10.4 full-time equivalent family welfare workers hired many years ago, he says, are certified social workers.
The pandemic, however, has exacerbated demand for them, Volkman said.
The board says that over the past two years, while the division area had access to four mental health workers through Alberta Health Services (AHS), there were times when communities like Rocky Mountain House and Drayton Valley went a few months without mental health services.
“We find quite often that we send children with suicidal thoughts, or who have even attempted suicide, that at the hospital level they often cannot keep them there overnight and do the work that needs to be done. be done. There have been instances where they literally kept them for a very short period of time and sent them home and sort of back to us and we say we can’t maintain that,” he said.
AHS reports that wait times for mental health and addictions services in Drayton Valley and Rocky Mountain House are 10 and 17 days, respectively. They also state that one of the reasons for the delay is the difficulty of hiring mental health professionals in rural communities.
They also said in a statement that processes were changed for the previous school year for student mental health supports due to the pandemic.
“In the 2020/21 school year, Alberta Education announced a new funding model that resulted in funds for the Regional Collaborative Service Delivery Model (RCSD) that supported AMH in the school setting. [addiction and mental health] programming, transition from AHS directly to school authorities.
Now, the provision of addiction and mental health services in schools depends on the establishment of contracts between individual school boards and AHS or other addiction and mental health service providers. Some children in need of addiction and mental health care may be required to access services through centralized intake or through a community addiction and mental health clinic, they said.
Due to growing demand, the division has hired 8.5 full-time equivalent Family Wellness Assistants, who are educational assistants with additional mental health training, to support lighter cases.
Due to cost, however, Volkman said there would only be 5.5 assistants in the next school year.
In contacting Health Minister Katherine Stavropoulos, Education Minister Adriana LaGrange’s press secretary, responded with a recent government announcement released on June 1 regarding new funding for students affected by the pandemic.
READ MORE: Province announces more supports for students affected by pandemic
“As part of the cross-departmental work we’ve been doing on Alberta’s Child and Youth Well-Being Action Plan and Budget 2022, the Government of Alberta has allocated $110 million additional dollars over three years to address mental health and well-being and COVID-19. learning loss. This includes up to $10 million per year for 2022/23 and 2023/24 to support pilot projects focused on improving a school authority’s continuum of mental health supports and services, including tools, training and resources for the school community,” said Stavropoulos.
She also says this is in addition to the $1.4 billion in learning support funding provided directly to schools each year, to help vulnerable students, and funds from the Specialized Learning Support Grant to that schools offer student wellness programs.
As details for accessing these new sources of funding remain unknown, Volkman says directors would still like to meet with the minister. He acknowledged that governments have had to make difficult decisions over the past few years and hopes this information can help to better understand what is happening in schools and the sadness of how this struggle is interfering with student learning.
“In our school division, we talk about providing powerful learning environments and we focus on two main themes: learning and well-being,” Volkman said. “These two things are so interconnected and we train all of our teachers that every time they teach their classes they have to have one foot in each of these big ideas.”