'Critical lifesaving project:' New mental health centre for youth to open in Calgary

The Centre for Child and Adolescent Mental Health broke ground on Friday after community efforts raised $50 million for the project. 

Centre for Child and Adolescent Mental Health expected to open in fall 2021

In addition to the walk-in clinic, the three-storey, 3,200-sq.-m facility will also offer an intensive treatment program and a day hospital. (Émilie Vast/CBC)

The Centre for Child and Adolescent Mental Health broke ground on Friday after community efforts raised $50 million for the project. 

The Alberta government paired up with Alberta Health Services (AHS), Alberta Children's Hospital Foundation and the University of Calgary to create a facility that would help young people struggling with mental health and addiction.

Darlene Haslam, a member of the Alberta Children's Hospital board and chair of the Build Them Up campaign — which helped finance the project, says youth struggling with mental heath will be now be "built up."

"We truly believe that what we are creating together will help to change how people in our community will think about, talk about and reach out for care for our kids that are struggling with mental health issues," she said.

According to a news release, the facility was designed with both the input of child and adolescent mental health centres across the globe, as well as young people and their families in Calgary.

Naomi Pearce, a member of the Centre’s Youth Advisory Council, says the goal is to make the centre as comfortable as possible for the kids and families who will need it. (Emilie Vast/CBC)

Naomi Pearce, who sits on the centre's youth advisory council, says her hope is that kids who are struggling will realize they will have a safe place to seek help. 

"They will have a place to turn when things seem a bit off and they will be welcomed with open arms — not judgment or stigma — by people that can help," she said Friday.

The centre, which is located in the northwest community of Hounsfield Heights, will include a walk-in clinic with specialized triage for young patients and an intensive treatment program.

AHS board chair David Weyant says the facility will also offer a day hospital to help young people who have been hospitalized go home sooner and ensure a smooth transition into their communities.

The facility will be in the northwest community of Hounsfield Heights. (Google Maps)

"Kids can receive treatment during the day and sleep in their own beds at night," said Weyant.

"When it opens two years from now, the Centre for Child and Adolescent Mental Health will give young people and families new options to help identify and manage mental heath challenges before they escalate into crisis."

Weyant says this new model is believed to help young people "tremendously"

Premier Jason Kenney also attended the conference and called the centre a "critical lifesaving project."

"These are health issues that need to be solved not just managed," Kenney said at the press conference Friday. "Early intervention is critical to recovery and for vulnerable kids and their families here in Calgary and throughout southern Alberta."

Kenney quotes the MacKinnon report and says that it recommended finding care "beyond hospital walls." He explains the new centre will help accomplish one piece of that goal, and include treatment ranging from prevention to long-term recovery.

"This place will help to rescue many young patients and put them on course to productive, happy and healthy lives," he said.

The centre will be one of the most robust research-intensive, community-based mental health-care facilities for young people in Canada, according to the provincial news release. It is expected to open in the fall of 2021.