Mr. Fraser: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. When a young person is dealing with a mental illness, family can be one of the most important lifelines. However, families aren’t always equipped to deal with the additional strain of caring for someone with a mental illness. In order for them to be effective and to support their loved ones, families need our support. They need to know what their resources are, where they’re available, and how to access those resources. To the Minister of Health. Minister, I’ve heard from constituents that are caring for a child with mental illness, and they don’t know where to turn. What is your government doing to connect families with the help that they need?
The Speaker: The hon. Minister of Health.
Ms Hoffman: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker and to the member for the important question. I want to assure all Albertans that if you’re ever at a time of crisis, if it’s an emergency, please call 911. If it’s something that you have a little more time to process and you want some advice on, you can always call 811 and speak to a licensed registered nurse here in the province of Alberta, and they will help you navigate through some of the options that are available.
In terms of system investments, we’ve increased our capacity for children and families by building the Rutherford mental health clinic here in Edmonton. We’ve also funded new counselling supports for survivors of sexual and physical assault through the Zebra Child Protection Centre, and they supported over 1,600 children and youth last year.
Mr. Fraser: While we all hope that someone dealing with a mental illness can rely on the support of friends and family, that simply isn’t always the case. Whether it’s because they have no one to turn to or because the people in their life aren’t equipped to help them, many people suffering from mental illness are at risk of isolation, homelessness, and much more. This is especially a concern for someone who is being discharged from a facility as that transition often results in falling through the cracks for these patients. To the same minister: what specifically is your government doing to ensure support for those suffering from mental illness after they’ve been discharged from a facility?
The Speaker: The hon. minister.
Ms Hoffman: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker and again for the question. Currently we are in the process of monitoring over 150 initiatives that our government has led and been involved with because of the valuing mental health work that we did when we were first elected. I want to thank the former Associate Minister of Health for her work on that important file as well. There are 18 actions specifically related to Valuing Mental Health: Next Steps, including the building of an eight-bed youth facility in Red Deer, increasing psychiatric emergency service outreach at the Alberta Children’s hospital, and the list goes on. We need to continue doing more, but much has been done.
Mr. Fraser: The issues that I’ve talked about today are symptoms of a much larger mental health crisis in our province. While spending has gone up, we’re still struggling to improve outcomes. What we need is a province-wide vision for how we approach mental illness and to help those who are suffering. The Valuing Mental Health report is a good first step, but we need to make sure that the recommendations are being adapted into a holistic approach to mental illness, not simply being applied in a piecemeal fashion. To the same minister: how close are we to full implementation of that report, and is your ministry pushing for a more holistic mental health strategy for all of Alberta?
The Speaker: The hon. minister.
Ms Hoffman: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. That’s exactly what we’re doing. That’s why we didn’t stop when we wrote a report. Many people said to us when we embarked on this process: we’ve written reports before, and they sat on a shelf. It was really important to them that this new government, our NDP government under the leadership of our Premier, develop next steps. That’s why we have the 18 steps identified under the Valuing Mental Health: Next Steps report.
We’ve also increased investment through the mental health capacity building in schools. Now over 65,000 students in 182 schools in 85 communities have additional supports because this side of the House voted to increase the budget and give those supports to families while members on that side of the House voted to slash them and lay off front-line workers, Mr. Speaker. I think we know who’s got the backs . . .
The Speaker: Thank you, hon. minister.