NLPS families will soon have additional help to navigate and access mental health services for youth thanks to a Mental Health in Schools grant from Alberta Education.
In partnership with the Bonnyville Primary Care Network (PCN), the almost $1 million grant will be used to hire a mental health navigator, a mental health nurse and two psychologists who will work with schools and families to ensure students receive mental health services.
“Whenever we are discussing mental health with parents, the one thing that always comes up is the difficulty they have in accessing support for their children,” said Board Chair Karen Packard. “Services either aren’t available locally, or they are only offered privately and families can’t afford to pay, or they don’t have access to a family doctor to make a referral to a specialist.”
As part of the division’s priority to improve student mental health and wellness, division and school staff have been collaborating with community agencies to determine how to improve access to services and resources for families.
“This pilot project expands on the work we have been doing and focuses on the Tier 3 or individualized supports that we currently are not able to offer at the school level and are often the most difficult for families to navigate,” explained Grace MacLellan, NLPS Director of Student Services.
Individualized supports include things like one-on-one clinical counselling, as well as supports from psychologists and access to referrals to additional medical and/or mental health providers such as psychiatrists.
“Working with the PCN will allow us to work together with mental health professionals to provide families with improved access to the resources and services that are available,” said MacLellan. “What we want to do is create mental health pathways from home to school to the community and beyond so students can access a continuum of supports both inside and outside of school."
The Pathways of Hope project will use the Student Advocacy Counsellors that are already in place in NLPS as the connection between families and the services that are available. Support can be provided at the school level by the Student Advocacy Counsellors. For students needing more support, a referral will be made to the Mental Health Navigator, who can help the family determine what resources, supports or referrals may be needed and then assist the family in accessing the identified supports.
Services for families are expected to start in February. The pilot program will be in effect until the end of the 2024-2025 school year. Families who feel they would benefit from taking part in the pilot project should contact their school’s Student Advocacy Counsellor for more information.