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Tough times call for free access to mental health – Alberta NDP

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NDP Leader Rachel Notley

From the Alberta NDP

NDP CALLS FOR ALBERTANS TO HAVE ACCESS TO FIVE PROVINCIALLY FUNDED MENTAL HEALTH SESSIONS

Alberta’s NDP Official Opposition is calling on the provincial government to help all Albertans get through the incredibly difficult COVID-19 pandemic by making five mental health therapy sessions available through the provincial insurance plan, with an online assessment tool to help connect them with a mental health professional.

“Albertans have endured incredible stress throughout this year, from job losses to social isolation to the loss of loved ones,” said Rachel Notley, Leader of Alberta’s NDP Official Opposition. “Heading into the holidays, I know how painful it is that we won’t be able to gather with our friends and extended family. For many, the holidays are always tough, and this year will be especially hard.

“Many Albertans need someone to talk to and help them process everything they’ve been through in a healthy way.

The Opposition is calling on the provincial government to launch a simple online tool to help Albertans assess their mental health needs and then connect them to five provincially insured sessions with a registered healthcare provider. Using the provincial health care plan means no out-of-pocket costs for anyone with a provincial health number. While the cost of the recommendation will depend on Albertans’ uptake of the program, the Opposition recommends the government make a commitment to fund up to $100 million worth of mental health support.

Dr. Keith Dobson is a Professor of Clinical Psychology at the University of Calgary, as well as a senior consultant for the Opening Minds program of the Mental Health Commission of Canada.  He has been at the University of Calgary since 1989 in a variety of roles, including Head of Psychology and a member of the Board of Governors.  He is a recognized expert in the field of mental health and the development and delivery of psychological treatment programs.

“Mental health needs were largely unmet before the pandemic and have grown considerably since,” Dr. Dobson said. “Estimates are that rates of anxiety and depression have at least doubled since early 2020, and that rates of alcohol use and domestic violence have also increased. We have evidence-based psychological and counseling services that have been, and can be, delivered using technology. The College of Alberta Psychologists has well developed standards for the provision of this service, and there is an available pool of trained and qualified service providers. This initiative is timely and needs serious consideration by the government.”

Dr. Judi Malone, CEO of the Psychologists’ Association of Alberta, said all Albertans, regardless of income, should have access to psychological services.

“The psychological health and wellness of Albertans can be substantively improved by enhancing access to appropriate mental health treatment,” Malone said. “Community and family supports are invaluable but when psychotherapy is warranted it needs to be provided by qualified professionals. Cost is a barrier to access as there are few publicly funded psychological services.

“COVID-19 has impacted the psychological health of Albertans who were already reeling from our economic downturn,” Malone added. “We can avoid a psychological pandemic by investing in the psychological health and wellness of Albertans. Access to necessary psychological support was difficult before – and that need for the services of registered psychologists continues to grow. Without policies, programs, and services in place we cannot meet this impending demand.”

A recent study from Morneau-Shepell, a human resources firm, said Albertans reported the highest increase in stress levels of all Canadians in November. Albertans have reported some of the worst mental health in Canada throughout 2020, and currently have the third-worst, ahead of Manitoba and Saskatchewan.

Yesterday, on Human Rights Day, the Alberta Division of the Canadian Mental Health Association, renewed its call for Albertans to have access to mental health care services in accordance with the five principles of Medicare: universal, comprehensive, accessible, portable and publicly administered. The expansion of services recommended by the Opposition would be an important step towards that goal in Alberta.

“The pandemic has made our lives much more difficult, and it’s also driven home how important it is to be proactive about our own health,” said Heather Sweet, Opposition Critic for Mental Health and Addiction. “This is an opportunity for the province to give Albertans the tools to do that. Over the past months, we have all gotten used to using an online tool to screen ourselves for the COVID-19 virus, and to be connected to testing services and health advice.

“Albertans should be able to assess their mental health at home, and have confidence that they will be connected to the help they need.”

 

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Alberta

Positive COVID-19 tests at world men's curling championship deemed “false positives”

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CALGARY — The four positive COVID-19 tests that interrupted the men’s world curling championship are considered “false positives” from potentially contaminated samples, according to the World Curling Federation.

The men’s championship concluded late Sunday night with Sweden’s Niklas Edin winning a record fifth world men’s title.

No games were played Saturday because four participants, including one from a playoff team, tested positive for the virus in “exit” tests before leaving Calgary’s curling bubble. 

None had symptoms of the illness.

All have tested negative in multiple re-tests since then, the WCF said Monday in a statement. All tests were conducted via PCR throat swabs.

“According to Alberta Health, PCR testing remains the gold standard for COVID-19 testing,” the WCF said. “Very rarely, there are occurrences through sampling or testing processes when samples may become contaminated and a false positive may result.

“Following an investigation over the weekend, it appears that this may have occurred in this case and follow-up testing was undertaken.”

All athletes and personnel considered close contacts of the four underwent testing Saturday with all results negative. 

Every playoff team member was tested before and after each game Sunday with those results also negative, the WCF said. Hotel staff were also tested Sunday and cleared.

“With the original four positive test results now deemed as false positives, the integrity of the Calgary bubble remains intact,” the WCF declared.

“The change also allows international athletes who were considered close contacts, and who would have had to remain in isolation in Calgary for 14 days, will now be able to depart Calgary.”

The fifth of seven events in Calgary’s curling hub, the Humpty’s Champions Cup, gets underway Thursday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 12, 2021.

The Canadian Press

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Alberta

Pulling the plug: Edmonton Folk Music Festival cancelled due to COVID-19 pandemic

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EDMONTON — Despite Alberta Premier Jason Kenney’s hope that the COVID-19 vaccine will allow summer events like the Calgary Stampede to go ahead, the Edmonton Folk Music Festival has been cancelled

The festival says in a statement that without full vaccination, people won’t be entirely safe from the spread of COVID-19. 

It says that with virus variants and an uncertain vaccine rollout, the impossibility of social distancing at the outdoor festival could lead to community spread.

Kenney has said that two-thirds of the population should have a vaccine shot by the end of June and things should begin to feel back-to-normal.

He says the Stampede, which is held in early July, along with sporting events and other festivals will be possible.

The Edmonton Folk Music Festival says it will continue to offer online content and, if small gatherings are permitted, it hopes to add some community engagement.

“With so many variables at play, the complexity of planning and delivering a festival of our size makes it impossible to move forward in our usual manner,” the statement said Monday.

“As profoundly disappointing as this news is, we believe this is the only safe way forward. The safety of our patrons, volunteers, and artists was of paramount importance in coming to this conclusion.”

The annual four-day festival in the city’s Gallagher Park usually attracts thousands of music fans and boasts approximately 2,700 volunteers.

Alberta introduced new health rules last week, closing restaurants to in-person dining and further reducing customer capacity at retail stores in response to rising COVID-19 numbers.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 12, 2021.

The Canadian Press

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