News / Calgary

Alberta government panel investigating post-secondary mental health funding

The Advisory Panel on Post-Secondary Mental Health will report directly to the Alberta Minister of Advanced Education with advice on future funding to schools

Alberta post-secondary students are awaiting a permanent funding plan from the provincial government that will guide future decisions on mental health programs.

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Alberta post-secondary students are awaiting a permanent funding plan from the provincial government that will guide future decisions on mental health programs.

Although the government has touted its latest re-announcement of budgetary money for post-secondary mental health initiatives, it's still unclear what's in the future for funding students and institutions hold crucial

In comes the Advisory Panel on Post-Secondary Mental Health.

The panel is made up of various stakeholders: post-secondary institutions, students, Alberta Health services, Canada Mental Health Association and governmental representatives.

The group will deliver on future funding, how to implement funding and an accountability framework – all deliverables due before the next budget is released.

“It’s really awesome to see the government is concerned enough that they’re willing to make a panel that’s going to decide the fate of this funding,” said Council of Alberta University Students (CAUS) chair Dexter Bruneau.

Bruneau said his group wants the government to adopt a per-student model for funding, and hopes the panel will be able to see the benefits of having stable funding at each institution.

“Then each institution can respond to their student capacity,” said Bruneau.

In 2013, the government put forward $10.3 million in targeted mental health funding for advanced education. As that money was running dry, the NDP government committed $3.6 million in the latest budget.

Advanced Education Minister Marlin Schmidt said funding will end summer of 2017, so the advisory panel will look to what campuses have been able to produce with past funding.

“We want to know what we need to do as a government to make sure that mental health resources are available to students on campuses all across the province on an ongoing basis,” said Schmidt. “It’s my hope the panel will look at what’s worked, and what hasn’t, and make sure the money we’re spending on mental health resources has the maximum effect.”

Schmidt said students have been passionate about mental health programs and he’s “taking them at their word” that the programs are working and improving lives on campus – but the panel is ultimately tasked to show the government the tangible results.

Bruneau said if institutions see mental health funding cut, they may have to cut the services built up over three years.

“It needs to be sustainable and long lasting,” said Bruneau.