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City hopes to boost mental health resource awareness

After logging an inventory of mental health, addictions, and other social services available in the city, municipal officials are hoping that raising awareness of the availability will guide those seeking any number of treatments get the help they need.

In a cross-municipality comparison presented to the Public and Protective Services Committee on January 17th, Grande Prairie has, on average, the same amount of services available as other mid-sized municipalities. However, Director of Community Social Development Angela Sutherland says the lack of knowledge about those programs may limit residents from being able to use them.

“In my experience, I think some challenges include knowing how to find the services and options.[One of] the key things we hear often is navigation, [and] I think people have challenges understanding where to find things and how to get help.”

“One of the things we have done is create a community compass. It’s a directory where you can plug in anything you are looking for, whether it’s food or mental health, and all the services are available there,” Sutherland adds.

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With services including in and outpatient addictions, supportive housing, adult shelters, and transitional supports, Sutherland says it’s good to know they are relatively close to cities with, in some cases, nearly double the population of Grande Prairie. However, if patients have difficulty tracking down what would work best for them and how to gain access to the services, the gap between availability and use remains.

“I think it’s a great start to dive deep into the comparisons of what we have in our community for mental health and addictions service, and the goal is to provide adequate services that are accessible locally, and what is required is ongoing advocacy to ensure Grande Prairie has that broad spectrum of holistic approaches available to those that are needing addictions and mental health supports,” Sutherland says.

“There is still a lot of work to be done in addressing some of the gaps, and part of that is understanding what the gaps are and ensuring we have proper advocacy, and that’s something our city council is really in support of and is a priority,” she adds.

Sutherland says, in an ideal world, Grande Prairie would have a recovery community treatment centre that meets the holistic needs of an individual and provides care from detox to treatment through to recovery management, like similar facilities currently being built in cities like Red Deer and Medicine Hat.

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