Posted on Jun 25, 2020


EDMONTON - Many students with disabilities will be returning to school, only to find out the vital supports they relied on like mental health therapists, physical therapists, speech pathologists services may no longer be provided or parents will need to pay for them out-of-pocket. 

The Regional Collaboration Services Delivery grant, which has been delivering important services for over 10 years, was cut by the UCP resulting in downloading costs to local school boards, that are still reeling from budget cuts and the impact of the pandemic.

“Education Minister Adriana LaGrange is playing a shell game by moving money around combined with deep cuts to school budgets which may mean parents have to pay for services or will not get them at all which will hurt our most vulnerable and marginalized children,” said NDP Education Critic Sarah Hoffman. “This cruel and heartless government is hurting students, who will need these services more than ever and the health care professionals, who have been working tirelessly to support these students and Albertans through COVID-19 pandemic.”

Health Sciences Association of Alberta represents over 300 health professionals who provide these services for thousands of Alberta students. United Nurses of Alberta (UNA) says about 20 UNA members’ positions will be eliminated as well.

Denis Potvin, Eastern Edge RCSD Regional Manager, said, due to the government announcement to cut Regional Collaborative Service Delivery funding, as of September 1, access to low incidence services for Alberta’s most vulnerable children, youth, and families will be severely limited and, in many regions, unavailable. 

These services include: braille and alternate format services; vision impairment; orientation and mobility, to travel training skills for those who are blind or low vision; deaf and hard of hearing; educational audiology; assistive technology; complex communication needs, mental health services, Alberta Aids to Daily Living authorizers.

Robin Telasky, the executive director for the Society of Alberta Occupational Therapists (SAOT), said they are deeply concerned that children with disabilities and their families will have little or no access to supports, including occupational therapy, come this fall.

“These budget cuts may allow for a small, short-term financial gain, but will have significant impacts for these children and families for years to come. In the absence of early interventions, even more dollars will be required down the road,” Telasky said.

Eighteen-year-old Madeline Mayes said she had struggled with hoarding and anxiety in highschool and became a strain on her mental health at school and at home so her school introduced her to a professional through Alberta Community and Social Services. 

“I met with her every other week for the entire school year, and she worked with me to identify the source of my mental health problems, as well as guided me towards resources in the community that I didn’t know I qualified for and wouldn’t have found otherwise,” Mayes said. “Without this service being funded and supported by the school board and provincial government, I would not have been able to afford private mental health support providers, and I wouldn’t be as confident as I am today. Knowing how much this helped me, I urge the government to reconsider this funding cut, as it will be hurting the health of youth like me who just need a bit of support to succeed.”

UNA said without the RCSD grant, schools, communities and families will no longer automatically have access to the services. Most school boards cannot afford to offer any services.