Pilot program expansion not enough to address mental health care crisis: Notley

EDMONTON - Today, Alberta NDP Leader Rachel Notley highlighted the PC government’s hypocrisy in announcing mental health resources for students while school support service funding is actually being cut.

“This is political tokenism in the face to services for special needs students. Expanding this small pilot program ignores the much bigger issues and does not scratch the surface of what is actually needed,” Notley said.

According to the 2014 Gap-Map on Alberta Youth and Mental Health, 37 per cent of Alberta youth diagnosed with mood disorders and psychosis were more likely to return to the ER than youth with other diagnoses, and that most youth do not receive follow-up care or referral to a specialist. This means that youth that are identified as high-needs through the EMPATHY program are still being shuttled into a health care system that isn’t equipped to help them.

“The PCs are giving a little bit with one hand while taking so much more with the other. While this program may help a small number of students, there is still a growing need in our health care system at large to address mental illness. Those will pressing needs aren’t finding the support or space they need when they are accessing the system.”

Notley highlighted the reduction in support services for vulnerable and special need students in the 2015 budget. The PC government cut $4 million on Equity of Opportunity support services this year, as classroom sizes continue to grow. 

“This announcement falls far short of what Alberta students truly need. The PCs have proven once again that they are out of touch with what Alberta families need and that they aren’t willing to do what it takes to protect the future of our children,” Notley said.

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