Two grants totaling $56,000 are being made to the Peace Wapiti Public School Division to offset the costs of providing Community School Liaison Counsellor services throughout the 2020-21 school year. Birch Hills County has granted the division $11,000 and the Municipal District of Greenview has allotted $45,000 for the service.

Heather Putio Assistant Superintendent with the PWPSD says the division has schools in either municipality, namely Eaglesham School in Birch Hills County, as well as Ridgevalley School and Penson School in the MD of Greenview. The grant contributions allow the district to provide the service to schools consistently.

“The grant itself, we would dedicate those dollars to salary and benefits, keeping in mind, there [are] a lot of miles to cover, so additional expenses incurred while running this program would be mileage, certification, and professional development opportunities… that would be the bulk of the costs.”

A Community School Liaison Counsellor is responsible for working with students, staff, and families to promote and aid in accessing mental health resources, as well as the promotion of community wellness.

Putio adds the Counsellor also addresses education around mental illness and the promotion of social, emotional wellness in students, as well as supporting staff and families.

“The role itself is a position of connection with students, staff and families, and education,” she says. “A Community School Liason Councillor would not provide therapy, but they would provide connection counselling, they would support family and student access [to] a higher level of service if necessary.”

Topics a counsellor may discuss in a given week may include bullying, friendship, identifying and understanding mental health issues, understanding the difference between mental health distress versus disorder.

Putio says the MD of Greenview has been working with the PWPSD and providing financial contributions for longer than she has held her seat as Assistant Superintendent, so far being seven years. Andrea Rosenberger is the current Community School Liason Councillor with the PWPSD.