The Alberta government is investing $21.6-million to expand online resources and virtual supports for Albertans seeking help for mental health and addiction challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
This funding is the first portion of the $53-million COVID-19 mental health action plan announced in April, aimed at helping Albertans access the resources they require, when and where they need them. Funding will enhance mental health and addiction supports, both online and in the community, through international, national and local organizations.
“Many Albertans have needed greater mental health and addiction recovery supports during the pandemic and will continue to need help once it’s over,” said Jason Luan, Associate Minister of Health and Addictions.
“This funding is giving more people free access to supports 24-7, and it’s enabling our government to work with our sector partners to develop other innovative supports. We are in this together and we will support Albertans every step of the way.”
Big White Wall is an online community where Albertans can communicate with peers dealing with similar issues and get support 24-7 from addiction and mental health counsellors.
“People come to Big White Wall for support with a wide range of mental health and well-being issues – from anxiety, depression, isolation and stress, to relationship problems and lifestyle challenges, said Matt McEvoy, senior vice-president and general manager for North America, Big White Wall.
“The safety of members and clinical rigour is at the core of what we do and we have a network of trained professionals to provide 24-7 support for Albertans.”
Albertans will also have better access to supports closer to home through enhanced local resources. This includes online mental health education and support, guidance and brief interventions with a trained counsellor, and improved access to e-mental health treatment with professional support through the InnoWell platform.
InnoWell supports early identification, assessment, and access to a number of e-mental health tools and apps and will be implemented in 10 communities – rural, remote and urban – across Alberta. It will provide a critical missing piece to Alberta’s addiction and mental health service landscape, supporting youth recovery and ensuring clinicians can work with youth to plan care.
The expansion of and increased capacity for the Addiction and Mental Health Helplines and Alberta 211 came into effect on March 27, during the immediate crisis response phase of this funding.
Since then, the Addiction Helpline has responded to more than 1,000 calls and the Mental Health Helpline has responded to more than 3,400 calls. The Kids Help Phone has also experienced about a 50 per cent increase in demand for their texting service since the start of the pandemic, and in April, the Community and Social Services Helpline (Alberta 211) responded to more than 2,700 calls – more than 400 of which were specific to mental health and substance use disorder.
Breakdown of $21.6 million for online and virtual supports
- Expand Kids Help Phone and crisis text line – $1.8 million (previously announced)
- Expand Addiction Helpline and the Mental Health Helpline – $9.6 million (previously announced)
- Expansion of 211 – $3 million (previously announced)
- Big White Wall – $1 million
- InnoWell – $2 million
- Community-based supports – $3 million
- With about $1.2 million in capital costs
Alberta’s Mental Health Helpline is available 24-7 toll-free and offers confidential support for mental health concerns: 1-877-303-2642.
Alberta’s Addiction Helpline is available 24-7 toll-free and offers confidential support for alcohol, tobacco, other drugs and problem gambling: 1-866-332-2322.
Kids Help Phone is available 24-7 and offers professional counselling, information and referrals and volunteer-led, text-based support to young people: 1-800-668-6868, or text CONNECT to 686868.
The Crisis Text Line Alberta is a service available 24-7 that offers information, referrals and volunteer-led, text-based support for Albertans of all ages, by texting CONNECT to 741741.
Alberta 211 is a free helpline that connects Albertans to community and social services in their area 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, in over 150 languages.
–Gerd Altmann photo
–Sarah Murphy/Alberta Press Leader
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