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Kenney pledges $53M in mental health funding as Alberta sees no new COVID-19 deaths

Alberta announces $53M of new mental health funding
WATCH ABOVE: Alberta Premier Jason Kenney announces $53 million for mental health and addictions in the province.

Premier Jason Kenney announced Wednesday that while Alberta confirmed an additional 126 cases of COVID-19, there had been no deaths in the last 24 hours.

Alberta’s total number of confirmed cases stands at just under 2,000. The provincial death toll remains at 48.

READ MORE: Alberta expands testing to anyone with COVID-19 symptoms

The premier said Alberta continues to see “relatively low rates of hospitalizations and ICU (intensive care unit) rates.”

In fact, the number of patients in ICU went down Wednesday to 10. Forty-four people were in hospital due to COVID-19.

“Those numbers have been stable for the last number of days,” Kenney said, “and they continue to be well below AHS’ modelling that we presented a week ago.”

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READ MORE: Finding value in daily COVID-19 numbers despite provincial testing differences

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health said while the number of hospitalizations has remained relatively stable, she’d rather see that number decline.

“Stable is good – it’s better than rising,” Dr. Deena Hinshaw said, “but we’d like to see it decreasing.”

“The total number of cases in hospital that we report every day has remained relatively constant, but that number is a function both of new admissions to hospital as well as how long people stay in hospital. So, for example, if someone comes into hospital and only stays a couple of days, they’re only counted on those two days, but if somebody comes in and they stay for three weeks, they count every day in that total count.

“So, what we need to do is look at not just those total hospitalized on a day-to-day basis, but what the new hospitalizations are and what that trend tells us about transmission in the two to three weeks prior to that point.”

Hinshaw said she hopes to make more data on those trends public by the end of the week.

Alberta experiences technical issues in COVID-19 data, reports new preliminary cases
Alberta experiences technical issues in COVID-19 data, reports new preliminary cases

She said Alberta Health experienced a data centre outage late Tuesday that shut down its data feed at the provincial lab. While teams worked throughout the night and were able to get results of lab tests done, they haven’t been able to get all the data published.

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Hinshaw said Alberta Health would post updated information on cases, recoveries, hospitalizations and cases in continuing care sites on Thursday.

READ MORE: Alberta reaches 48 total deaths from COVID-19, over 60% of fatal cases in continuing care facilities

$53 million for mental health, addictions support

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Kenney said most Albertans have shared they’re suffering emotionally, psychologically and financially due to the pandemic.

“The government of Alberta is investing $53 million additional dollars into mental health supports,” the premier said, adding Alberta is “launching a comprehensive mental health and addictions COVID-19 mental health response plan.”

READ MORE: New technology focuses on mental wellness for Albertans during COVID-19 pandemic

He said the funding was more than all of the other provinces’ COVID-19 mental health plans combined, times two.

This is on top of the $140 million in spending the government began implementing last year following the election, Kenney said.

“It will hugely expand Albertans’ access to online and digital mental health supports.”

Alberta is investing $21.4 million to improve access to phone and online supports with existing helplines, including the Addiction Helpline, the Mental Health Helpline, the Kids Help Phone and the Community and Social Services Helpline (Alberta 211).

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Online resources will also be expanded to help people who may not be able to access face-to-face services, including those in self-isolation or those in rural locations.

“It’s important that Albertans in all corners of the province have access to the mental health and addiction supports they need,” said Jason Luan, associate minister of mental health and addictions.

“These resources will help address the needs of children, youth and adults, and we will continue to work with our partners across the mental health and addiction sector to find innovative ways to support Albertans in need, both now and after the pandemic is behind us.”

Alberta announces $53M in funding for mental health
Alberta announces $53M in funding for mental health

Outbreak declared at Kearl Oilsands Project

A new COVID-19 outbreak was declared at the Kearl Oilsands Project north of Fort McMurray.

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Three people have tested positive for the virus and six more have been tested and are isolating, as their results are expected shortly, Hinshaw said.

READ MORE: Three workers in Alberta oilsands camp test positive for COVID-19

AHS is working with the company on protocols, health procedures and additional steps, she said.

COVID-19 outbreak reported at workcamp north of Fort McMurray, Alta.
COVID-19 outbreak reported at workcamp north of Fort McMurray, Alta.

Alberta has completed 82,534 tests for COVID-19 – an average of 1,900 a day. In the last 24 hours, 2,853 tests were done in Alberta.

“The plan is to ramp up testing even more in the days to come,” the premier said.

“Thank you to all Albertans for the essential role you are playing in limiting the spread.”

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A 24-hour Family Violence Information Line is available at 310-1818 to get anonymous help.

Alberta’s One Line for Sexual Violence is available at 1-866-402-8000, from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., in more than 170 languages.