Posted on Feb 10, 2021


EDMONTON - A network of Alberta psychologists have gathered more than 17,000 signatures on a petition in support of the province funding mental health sessions for all Albertans, and NDP MLA Heather Sweet will present the petition to the legislature at the start of the upcoming session.

The petition was started in 2019 by the Expert Psychologists Interagency Clinical network, or EPIC, a coalition of agencies including more than 60 private psychologists. EPIC is calling for all Albertans to be able to access provincially funded sessions with a psychologist. This call is similar to a policy proposal the NDP Opposition independently presented to the government in December of 2020.

“All Albertans have experienced increased stress and isolation through this pandemic, and many families have also lost jobs and health benefits,” said Heather Sweet, MLA for Edmonton-Manning. “Using the provincial health insurance plan to cover sessions with a mental health professional would make a real difference in so many people’s lives. I’m proud to present this petition on behalf of these mental health professionals.”

Janet Ryan-Newell is the founder of EPIC and a registered psychologist, and has seen increases in severe anxiety, depression, grief, loss, suicidality, substance use, family violence, and complex mental illness among Albertans.

“Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have seen a range of mental health issues increasing at critical rates,” Ryan-Newell said. “Even before the pandemic, the medical model, mental health care system was significantly overextended. Now, as psychologists, we are increasingly concerned for the mental health of Albertans.” 

"Since August, we have experienced double-digit increases in the number of people who are coming to Cornerstone in search of low-fee counselling," said Sheila Stauffer, Executive Director of Cornerstone Counselling in Edmonton. "In speaking with colleagues in the not-for-profit and charitable counselling sector across Alberta, we are finding our current funding sources are not sufficient to meet this rapidly escalating mental health crisis."

"We serve people from all over Alberta and are experiencing an 80% increase in the number of session hours we are conducting. We are also noticing people want to attend in-person sessions as opposed to online sessions. They are in dire need of human, in-person, contact," said Eileen Bona, Psychologist and Executive Director of Dreamcatcher Nature Assisted Therapy in Ardrossan.

Dr. Cory Hrushka from Insight Psychological said, "Similar to what we're experiencing here in Edmonton, psychologists in our Calgary office are finding an increase in the number of youths, aged 15 to 18, that need mental health supports. Parents are struggling to find affordable services in the community and are finding the wait lists with AHS to be frustrating and not timely enough."  

Sweet will present the petition when the legislative session resumes, in early March.

“This is a practical proposal to address a real problem for Alberta families,” Sweet said. “I hope that Associate Minister Jason Luan reviews it closely and implements it quickly.”