Alberta investing $7.7M to support Indigenous-led mental health efforts

CALGARY — The Alberta government is investing $7.7 million to foster Indigenous-led efforts to improve mental health, including supports for residential school survivors and their families.

Through the Residential School Mental Health Support Grant Program, First Nations, Metis Settlements and the Métis Nation of Alberta will be eligible to apply for funding toward counselling services and traditional healing practices like talking circles for individuals, families and communities affected by residential schools and the ongoing discoveries of unmarked graves.

“The mental health and wellness of all First Nations have been impacted in some way by residential schools,” said Chief Douglas Beaverbones of the O’Chiese First Nation.

“We all know someone or have heard stories of what happened to our children who were taken away. The trauma runs deep and significant effort needs to be made to heal. This funding is a welcome step in that direction.”

More than $2.8 million will be available through grants of up to $50,000 each.

The province is also providing $4.9 million over two years to the Alberta Health Services (AHS) Indigenous Wellness Core, which “partners with Indigenous peoples, communities and stakeholders to provide accessible, culturally appropriate health services for First Nations and Metis people and the Inuit in Alberta,” according to a release.

“The funding is a part of the Alberta government’s efforts to address the painful legacy of residential schools. Mental health supports are especially important as burial sites continue to be uncovered,” said Health Minister Tyler Shandro.

“We are committed to working with First Nations and Métis peoples to achieve real and meaningful improvements in all aspects of health and well-being.”

Trauma associated with residential schools is far-reaching, said Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Mike Ellis.

“The path to reconciliation is through independence. We hope this funding will provide more independence for Indigenous and Métis peoples in Alberta to improve their mental wellness and begin recovering from community trauma,” he said.

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