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LAKELAND - Lakeland Catholic students, families, and staff will soon be benefiting from over $1.2 million in provincial pilot funding.

A program drafted by Lakeland Catholic School Division is receiving a large sum of grant funding from the province through the Mental Health and Schools Pilot.

Community partners will collaborate to provide ongoing access to enhanced mental health supports in the Lakeland area to children, youth and families under Lakeland Catholic’s Mental Health Wellness in Schools: Education and Community Partners Together program. The overall goal is to assist students and their families as they navigate the pathways to mental health services to improve their personal health and wellness.

In addition to Cold Lake, Bonnyville, and Lac La Biche Family and Community Support Services (FCSS) hiring an additional social worker for their communities, educational partners will hire three navigators who will connect schools in those areas with local community partners and programs.

“We know that healthy families grow healthy kids. These programs, workshops, and services will provide our families with the skills and tools they need to ensure they’re sending their children to school happy and healthy,” said LCSD Superintendent Pamela Guilbault.

Navigators will serve two main purposes - responding to the needs of the school, staff, students, and families while also providing support as they access the pathways to mental health services. These navigators will collaborate with community partners to ensure that the universal and targeted programming that is developed is aligned to the specific needs in each school and community to optimize mental wellness.

“These navigators will also serve as a communication channel for the many new and enhanced supports and services our families will be accessing,” explained Guilbault. “Ensuring our students and their families have a successful transition through the educational system and understand the numerous supports in their own communities is key to ensuring they feel supported in and can advocate for their mental wellness. That is another vital role our navigators will play.”

Educational opportunities regarding mental health and overall wellness strategies in all communities will improve the health and wellbeing of the greater community.

Lakeland Catholic will invite  the Dragonfly Centre to offer educational workshops and programs on numerous topics  in order to address the health and wellness needs of students and families, utilizing a multi-prevention approach. Additionally, the centre will provide targeted support through early intervention, and will assist school staff in the identification of students with high needs.

Staff will participate in ongoing professional learning, which will be individualized based on needs as determined by formal and informal assessments. Family Outreach Workers will have increased capacity to support student mental health through enhanced opportunity for collaboration and professional development.

“Our staff are working with these students each and every day, and it is our duty to ensure they have the proper training and knowledge to assist children, youth, and their families,” said Guilbault.

In addition to utilizing the programs that are already developed, the division will work with FCSS,  Lakeland Family Resource Network, and the Dragonfly Centre to develop universal programs including workshops, presentations, demonstrations, retreats, and fairs.

Mikaela Moulton, Clinical Supervisor at the Dragonfly Counselling and Support Centre said, “We are appreciative for the opportunity to provide services in this important initiative to create accessible mental health supports for our children, youth, families, and education staff within the LCSD schools.”

She noted, the multifaceted delivery system of this pilot program will allow for in-community access, “which is pivotal in implementing effective rural mental health programming.”

“We are grateful to be united in a common goal with the community partners also participating in this pilot. The LCSD recognized a need and through this initiative, brought together a great team of people from multiple professional disciplines to commit to addressing mental health concerns identified within the schools and to foster an environment that promotes wellness and healthy choices,” Moulton added.

“Our families will have direct access to learn and grow from programming and counselling already        being provided in their own community,” Guilbault said. “This is an incredible win for the community.”