Area school divisions are set to receive $4.4 million in funding to improve mental health and addictions supports for students.
The funding will be spread between districts in Brandon, Portage la Prairie and Hanover, Brandon East Progressive Conservative MLA Len Isleifson said during the announcement at Betty Gibson School on Monday morning.
This money will be spent over three years to improve existing clinical teams of psychiatric nurses and addiction support workers at school divisions in those communities.
"This innovative initiative allows for enhanced access to supports prior to requiring a referral to other community services or regional health authority programs," said Education Minister Kelvin Goertzen in a release.
After the announcement, Isleifson told the Sun that the money will be used by divisions to bring in support from organizations like Prairie Mountain Health and the Addictions Foundation of Manitoba.
He added that this announcement is related to 14 other initiatives announced since October 2019 in support of mental health and addiction services in the province.
These include things like Thrival Kits, a mental health initiative aimed at students in Manitoba, and an expansion of Project 11, a mental-health program for kindergarten through Grade 8 students established by the True North Youth Foundation.
"We know that there are serious mental health and addictions needs in Brandon and within our schools and these additional resources will allow us to address these," Brandon School Division chair Linda Ross said.
Ross indicated during her speaking time during the announcement that these funds had been requested by the division previously.
"We’ve been asking for supports for our high-needs students," she said.
The chair said she was waiting for a list of parameters to be passed on from the province before saying what exactly the money would be spent on within the division.
Both Ross and Isleifson said that the three Brandon MLAs meet regularly to discuss issues with the Brandon School Division.
The three divisions being funded are piloting a program that the province hopes to expand to 12 divisions total depending on the outcomes in its first and second years.
Goertzen and Health, Seniors and Active Living Minister Cameron Friesen made a stop in Portage la Prairie as part of the announcement on Monday.
Isleifson was named Friesen’s legislative assistant after Premier Brian Pallister unveiled his post-election cabinet in October.
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