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Calgary Urban Project Society: Mental health services expand after provincial grant

Mental health support is set to become more accessible for low-income Calgarians after a community non-profit secured additional funding through a new provincial grant.

The Calgary Urban Project Society (CUPS) is a registered charity foundation that assists adults and families in Calgary facing the adversity of poverty and trauma, through an approach that integrates healthcare, education, and housing.

Sept. 21, the Government of Alberta announced a $1.4 million three-year funding grant to CUPS that will finance an expansion of mental health services, including the hiring of four new staff, increased client space, and the creation of an off-site outreach program.

The funding, which was provided in response to recommendations made in 2015 by the Alberta Mental Health Review Committee, will eliminate the waiting list for CUPS clients seeking mental health support, said Minister of Health Sarah Hoffman in a government press release.

“When Albertans are struggling, they deserve to have access to compassionate care and support, when and where they need it.” 

The grant will help vulnerable adults become more resilient, and will help ensure their children experience a more stable and responsive home, said Carlene Donnelly, executive director of CUPS.

“Ultimately this will lead to stronger families, a healthier community, and lasting impact that spans generations,” she said in the release.

CUPS employs a unique approach incorporating evidence derived from neuroscience to plan and implement support programs specific to each person that walks through its doors, explained Karen Meades, communication manager at CUPS.

“Our work is rooted in the science of brain development, which tells us that the experiences we have shape our brains and affect our life outcomes.

“We’re the only organization in Canada that uses brain science to inform how our programming is designed and delivered.”

Research suggests that life experience has profound impacts on early brain development, meaning that initial exposure to certain conditions can predispose individuals to future outcomes – both good and bad, said Meades.

“There’s knowledge now that can predict a person’s health outcomes, like cardiac disease, diabetes, mental health, and addictions, based on what happens to them early in childhood.”

Deciding the right treatment path for an individual depends on determining what those conditions were, explained Meades.

“When someone comes through our doors, we ask them not what’s wrong with you, but what happened to you.”

From there, CUPS aims to create a program plan for each client that is more sustainable, beyond being a short-term solution to whatever issues they are dealing with. This program will also help them build a better life for them and their families into the future, said Meades.

“Our ultimate goal is to bring people from crisis to self-sufficiency.”

The new funding has expedited and expanded clients’ access to mental health services, said Meades.

“We are able to see a lot more new patients, and provide more care to the patients we already have, and move them through their care plan faster – so they get better faster.”

The grant also allowed for the creation of a community outreach program, so that a mental health professional can now visit clients off-site.

“Within this population, one of the barriers to care could be extreme anxiety, where they can’t actually make it to a clinic, or they have mobility issues.

“Now we will meet them where they are most comfortable.”

While the grant provided funding to CUPS’ mental health services specifically, these services are only a subcomponent of CUPS’ overall operational scope.

CUPS provides an integrated care model that incorporates housing, health care, and education, as well as working with many different community partners to ensure people get the right kind of help where and when they need it, explained Meades.

This approach targets beyond the individual, instead addressing the needs of each affected family.

“We take a two-generational approach to care.

“We make sure that everyone in the family has the care and support that they need to be healthy, both physically and mentally.”

The work done by CUPS is beneficial beyond the lives of the immediate client base, affirmed Meades.

“We can’t have a healthy community without having physically and mentally healthy citizens.

“A healthy community benefits us all.”

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