The urgent demand for psychological acute care for children and youth has become more apparent over the course of the pandemic in Alberta. This means kids need a place to be cared for within the Calgary community where they can manage their mental health struggles before they require hospitalization.
“The demand was outstripping the ability for the health system to accommodate in terms of services,” says Belinda Lamb, vice president of communications for the Alberta Children’s Hospital Foundation.
Working hand-in-hand with Alberta Health Services, the foundation began having conversations about ways to reinforce and support the limited mental health resources already offered by the healthcare system. From the partnership came the idea for a new Centre for Child and Adolescent Mental Health in Calgary.
The centre will be a resource for parents who are seeking assistance and treatment for their children. This accessible facility and its staff will be committed to fulfilling the needs of young people from all walks of life.
The project broke ground in northwest Calgary in November 2019 and is expected to open in the fall of 2022. It will provide three new services, including a youth-focused walk-in clinic, intensive treatment centre, and Calgary’s very own day hospital for mental health.
During the building process, the community showed immense support in the development of the new centre through a major fundraising initiative led by the hospital foundation called the Build Them Up Campaign. In addition to this campaign, the foundation received substantial donations from other fundraisers. The Alberta Children’s Hospital Foundation will continue to raise funds until and beyond the scheduled opening date.
Rhaine Marquardt, 17, is the co-founder of the Building Hope Campaign, which contributed just over $16,000 to the opening of the new centre before the end of 2021. In the midst of the pandemic, the intentions behind Building Hope were similar to those of the ACHF — to bring teens together to empower other teens.
“I wanted to bring a voice to those who maybe didn’t have a voice or were afraid to use their voice,” says Marquardt. “There’s always a solution, there’s always help and there’s always support waiting for you if you’re wanting to get it.”
Together, the upcoming Centre for Child and Adolescent Mental Health, along with the community’s contributions, have continued to break down the stigma that is often tied to mental health issues.
Marquardt relates her own struggle during the pandemic to those who are experiencing mental health struggles on a much greater scale. She says that some may feel disconnected from access to support, as it often doesn’t seem readily available. Her hope is that the new Centre for Child and Adolescent Mental Health will encourage those who need help to reach out and know that they will be accepted with open arms.
“I hope that the legacy that we have created for Building Hope continues on, I hope that it lives on and encourages people to be a voice for those around them who may not have a voice,” says Marquardt. “It’s okay to not know and it’s okay not to be okay.”