Virtual counselling to allow Calgary agency to offer mental health care to more people

Counselling services for Calgarians with anxiety, depression and stress disorders have received a $566,000 boost.

Province says $566K in funding will expand services in Calgary and surrounding areas

Calgary Counselling Centre CEO Robbie Babins-Wagner, left, and Alberta Health Minister Sarah Hoffman announce new funding for mental health services. (Audrey Neveu/Radio-Canada)

Counselling services for Calgarians with anxiety, depression and stress disorders have received a $566,000 boost.

The new funding is going toward the Calgary Counselling Centre to expand counselling services in Calgary and the surrounding rural communities, Alberta Health Minister Sarah Hoffman said at the press conference Friday.

"We know that mental health needs ... are increasing, and I think it's important that the province invest in this area," she said. "Mental health is a significant priority, I think, for Alberta families."

Alberta Health Minister Sarah Hoffman says the new funding will help children and families in the Calgary area access mental health services. (Audrey Neveu/CBC)

The centre is a non-profit that provides mental health treatment to more than 54,000 people a year. The new funding is targeted to assist more than 1,100 new clients, half of which are expected to be children and young people.

Virtual counselling

The centre will test using secure virtual technology to connect people outside of Calgary with counsellors and mental health treatment.

"People who use virtual technology may not need to come to our office to meet a counsellor, centre CEO Robbie Babins-Wagner said.

"People at the other end just need a phone or a computer for a secure connection with a counsellor. They don't need a special computer program."

Families, children, Indigenous communities and people with complex mental health and addiction needs are a particular focus of the new program, which will involve hiring eight more staff members, she said.

This is the first injection of provincial cash the centre has received, Babin-Wagner and Hoffman said.

"I'm proud to say and embarrassed a little bit, too. I think that over 50 years there were definitely lots of opportunities that past governments could have invested in Calgary Counselling Services," Hoffman said. "I'm proud that our government's investing in the centre today."

The funding is effective immediately.

With files from Radio-Canada's Audrey Neveu.