December 21, 2016 1:18 pm
Updated: December 22, 2016 11:42 am

Mental health response to Fort McMurray wildfire evacuees to be assessed by province

WATCH ABOVE: The province is evaluating how it responded to the mental heath needs of Fort McMurray evacuees. Julia Wong reports.


The Alberta government plans to evaluate how it responded, and continues to respond, to the mental health needs of Fort McMurray wildfire evacuees.

Alberta Health is hiring a consultant to evaluate its mental health efforts both during and after the massive fire, which forced approximately 90,000 people to flee from their homes in a single afternoon.

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READ MORE: Mental health services staff offer ‘shoulder’ to Fort McMurray residents in need of support

“The province is hiring a consultant to evaluate these efforts so that we learn from this disaster for the future, and so that we make sure the right mental health supports are in place for the people of Fort McMurray into the future,” Associate Minister of Health Brandy Payne said.

Alberta Health is separating its response to the disaster into two parts: the response phase, which covers the evacuation order to the lifting of the provincial state of emergency on July 1, and the recovery phase, which covers the period after the lifting of the state of emergency.

READ MORE: Alberta health officials focusing on mental health assistance in wake of Fort McMurray wildfire

It says the response phase was meant to meet the immediate mental health needs of fire evacuees.

“During this time, key activities included the coordination and distribution of communication materials, increased mental health supports in reception centres and host communities, and planning and development of psycho-social support for community re-entry,” reads a request for proposals from Alberta Health.

The recovery phase, meanwhile, focuses on the ongoing and long-term mental health recovery of evacuees.

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The project will examine how mental health services were activated and used, evaluate the response phase and determine whether there were gaps in coverage. It will also identify the infrastructure and resources needed to develop a provincial disaster psycho-social framework, identify targets that would result in positive mental health outcomes and identify unmet needs in both the response and recovery phase.

A spokesperson for Alberta Health said mental health support was given to more than 25,000 people in Fort McMurray as a result of the fire.

The project will cover the supports put in place by Alberta Health, Alberta Health Services, Alberta Education, Human Services, Corporate Human Resources, and Municipal Affairs.

READ MORE: Fort McMurray fire chief Darby Allen to retire in February

The evaluation is expected to run from Feb. 1 to Aug. 31, 2017. The project has a budget of $90,000.

© 2016 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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