South Peace News
Alberta Health Services’ decision to cancel psychiatrist services has Peace River School Division worried for the mental health of its students.
The board heard the news at its Dec. 16, 2021 board meeting.
“Alberta Health Services has given notification that a long-time psychiatrist’s contract will not be renewed,” says a news release issued by PRSD.
“Supports for mental health, addiction, and supports for children with learning and physical disabilities are crucial for students to learn and reach their full potential, as they need to be mentally healthy. Not having access to these services will be a detriment to our students and communities,” the news release continues.
The board is writing letters to Alberta Minister of Health Jason Copping and partnering municipalities regarding the non-renewal of a contract. To date, AHS has not indicated there is a plan to fill the void in professional services.
“Children that are currently using this service were advised to book follow-up appointments with their family physician,” says PRSD. “Unfortunately, there is a shortage of family doctors in the north so that option is not possible for many.”
The need for the service is apparent. In February 2021, PRSD issued a Student Mental Health and Wellness Survey to students in Grades 7-12, staff and parents. A total of 1,800 responses were received: 77 per cent of Grades 7-12 students, 24 per cent of parents and guardians, and 71 per cent of staff responded to the survey. PRSD issued the survey after several students, families and staff communicated the lack of access to services and supports related to mental health.