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New student mental health pilot project gets $1.46 million boost

Five mental health consultants will be providing direct support to students in Chinook's Edge School Division and Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools
MVT stock Chinook's Edge building front
File photo/MVP Staff

INNISFAIL - Students in public and Catholic schools across the region will be receiving enhanced mental health support through a newly-announced, two-year pilot project, say officials.

Chinook’s Edge School Division (CESD), Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools (RDCRS) and McMan Central Region are teaming up on the project after receiving a $1.46 million provincial grant as part of ongoing efforts to expand mental health supports in Alberta K-12 schools.

Starting this year, the pilot will run until December 2024 and will see five mental health consultants providing direct support to students, according to a press release issued by the divisions on Nov. 17.

“We are so excited to collaborate with Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools and McMan Central,” said CESD Board Chair, Holly Bilton. “Together, we are confident this will assist us in serving the needs of students.”

An Innisfail-based not-for-profit social service agency, McMan will be providing three family enrichment workers for project.

The recruitment process to fill the five mental health consultant positions will now get underway, as will the implementation of the planned staff collaborative work.

Anne Marie Watson is the chair of the RDCRS division, which includes schools in Olds and Innisfail.

“We appreciate that the government has recognized the importance of supporting mental wellness in schools through the funding of this joint two-year pilot project,” said Watson. 

“This funding is critical for building capacity among our teachers and staff to respond to the mental health concerns of students, and for students to gain access to community mental health support in a timely manner.”

Collaboration between CESD and RDCRS through the pilot project will benefit students in both division by bringing together existing staff expertise, said Marcie Perdue, CESD associate superintendent of student services.

“We already have a strong connection with one another and we work in some of the same communities, so we are able to be innovative in designing how the work will look,” said Perdue. “Part of our approach will be sharing staff resources and expertise, which is not common among school divisions.”

Jodi Smith, RDCRS associate superintendent of inclusion, said the pilot project will “allow us to increase mental health resilience amongst students and families by continuing to offer learning opportunities in the areas of social-emotional learning (and will) help increase access to community mental health support and services for our most vulnerable students.”

Dan Singleton

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