A local organization dedicated to improving access to mental health care will benefit from $500,000 in provincial funding.
Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Jason Luan was in Airdrie June 26 to announce $500,000 in funding for the Thumbs Up Foundation. He was joined by Airdrie-East MLA Angela Pitt, Airdrie-Cochrane MLA Peter Guthrie, Mayor Peter Brown and Kim Titus, co-founder of Thumbs Up Foundation.
“This has been a very long journey,” Pitt said. “There has been a lot of meetings and conversations, and sometimes nothing short of actual begging, to get to this point. I am so excited that our United Conservative Party government has recognized that we have a need here.”
According to a press release, the funding comes from the Community Grant Funding Program (CGFP) and is part of $53 million allocated to the provincial COVID Mental Health Action Plan. The CGFP includes $5 million in funding dedicated to local organizations supporting mental health and addiction initiatives in Alberta.
Titus said the funding will be put towards Harmonized Health, a pilot project that aims to support individuals and families requiring assistance for mental health and addiction care. According to Titus, care is provided by professionals and non-professionals in a controlled and measured environment.
The pilot project serves a limited capacity, she said, by integrating support services for those dealing with mental health and addiction problems. For example, Titus said Harmonized Health helps bring disparate professionals, like physicians and therapists that don't normally work together, onto the same page while treating someone struggling with mental health.
"Our whole mandate is to prove a model that can help shape and inform government and Alberta Health of the potential benefits for what else needs to be funded," Titus said.
During the announcement, Titus expressed gratitude to the Alberta government for understanding the importance of the foundation in Airdrie.
“Your vision aligns with our vision,” she said. “We’re doing it on a small scale. We’re hoping to inform you and your government on changes as we make them here in Airdrie, as we learn through the pilot project.”
According to Titus, residents reach out to Thumbs Up Foundation for mental health and addictions support on a regular basis. She added those who reach out need a better system.
Luan said he was impressed by the work Thumbs Up Foundation is doing after meeting Titus at the foundation's annual golf tournament and banquet.
“This organization has a strong connection to the community,” he said.
Brown said Airdrie “had a need" and showed the province a vision for addressing mental health.
"We showed them we could do things differently, more creatively and innovatively to address mental health," he said.
He added people are suffering due to economic challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, and he was thrilled the province listened to the call for local mental health support.
"You understood the opportunity that exists in Airdrie,” he said.
Brown also praised Titus for Thumbs Up Foundation's hard work and dedication to supporting mental health awareness.
“She is the driving force [and] the reason, really, why we are here,” he said. “She makes people move, she makes people think. She makes them understand the importance of mental health.”