Mental health services to stay on campus
Correction to article regarding mental health funding for MRU
By Amy Simpson, Contributor
The Reflector published an article last month titled, “Mental Health Supports Could be Moving Off Campus by 2020,” based on concerns the Students Association of Mount Royal University (SAMRU) expressed regarding the recent funding announcement from the Alberta government.
However, those concerns were later deemed inaccurate. Mental health services will not be transitioning off campus and Mount Royal University did not receive the smallest amount of funding amongst all post-secondary institutions.
“Mount Royal University was actually really pleased with the long-term commitment and outstanding commitment by government,” said Kandi McElary, Director of Wellness Services at MRU.
In June, the province announced they would be investing $28.5-million of mental health funding into post-secondary institutions across Alberta. According to McElary, MRU received $465,000 from Aug. 1, 2017 to March 31, 2019 and an additional $280,000 from April 1, 2019 to March 31, 2020.
The original press release sent out by SAMRU stated that funding in the third year would go towards transitioning mental health supports off of the university campus.
“Student concerns are heightened because 1/3 of the promised funding won’t even be going directly to the institution. Instead, $280,000 allocated in the 3rd year of funding will go towards transitioning mental health services to the public system,” stated the release.
This is fortunately not the case.
“Mount Royal is over 100 years old and counselling is one of our oldest student services on campus. I can’t ever foresee a day where Mount Royal would not be committed to that,” said McElary.
She explained that instead of moving mental health services off-campus, the funding will enhance the supports students have access to. This is significant for individuals that suffer higher mental health acuity.
“Sometimes there is someone who has mental illness that is highly complex and we don’t have the capability or capacity to serve that student,” said McElary.
“We want to insure that as we serve all students on campus, they can be identified better by people in the community such as Alberta Health Services or Calgary Communities Against Sexual Abuse.”
SAMRU’s president Shifrah Gadamsetti, said the misinterpretation was mostly due to the lack of clarity surrounding the word “transition.” However, she said SAMRU will be working with the province to improve communication.
“I will now be participating in a round table on November 14th with other MH [mental health] stakeholder representatives across the province to address concerns moving forward,” said Gadamsetti.
The second concern was around the claim that MRU received the smallest amount of funding amongst all universities across Alberta.
This is also fortunately not the case.
Although the funding MRU received per full-time student was below the average amount given out, they did not receive the smallest amount per institution. In addition, the amount of funding received from the province is not a concern to MRU’s Wellness Centre.
“I believe and am confident that Mount Royal got an equitable amount based on what other institutions received,” said McElary.
According to her, the amount of funding allotted to each post-secondary institution depended on a number of variables such as geographic location, the number of campuses and the type of students on campus. For example, a college with seven campuses would need a larger amount of funding than a college with only one, even if the college with seven has a smaller student body.
“I think the misinterpretation came from comparing our student numbers with other institutions and their announcements,” said McElary.
Gadamsetti corrected the claim and said, “At the time, our press release was created based on the information we had received.
Although this mix-up raised some unnecessary concerns, the corrections are a sigh of relief.
McElary believes that mental health services on campus are essential.
“That 18 to 24 or 25 age range is when mental illness often emerges for young adults,” said McElary.
“Where students go to school, where they are learning, where some of them are living in residence services, where they are playing, where they are meeting friends is the right place for them to have a gateway access to services.”
The Wellness Services is committed to making sure students at MRU have access to the services they need and improving their ability to identify and reach out to students who who are struggling with their mental health.
“Having those kind of services on campus is the right commitment by government and we are just really thrilled that this government has recognized that for all students, all post secondary students in Alberta,” said McElary.