CASA Mental Health plans expansion to new communities

Paula Colvin can’t wait to cut ribbons.

Paula is the director of CASA Mental Health’s Program Management Office. She and her team are overseeing the organization’s province-wide expansion of CASA Classrooms and expansion and integration of CASA House and the Adolescent Day Program (ADP).

The expansion plan is part of CASA’s five-year strategic roadmap to ensure mental health resources meet kids where they are, serve more children and youth, and provide support built directly into families’ lives.

Currently, the organization is currently in the second year of that roadmap.

The Adolescent Day Program and CASA House programs will be integrated in Edmonton and new sites will be located in Fort McMurray, Calgary and a soon-to-be identified fourth location in central Alberta. Integration will ensure continuity of care and a smooth transition for patients whose levels of care may change.

As for Classrooms, three new sites will open in Edmonton and Fort Saskatchewan this September. Further rollout will take place in February in southern Alberta and then central Alberta. Expansion will occur in larger cities and smaller, rural areas like Rocky Mountain House.

“Essentially, by the end of our classroom rollouts with this agreement that we have in place right now, it’ll be across the whole province,” Paula says.

CEO Bonnie Blakley, left, and Paula, speak to CASA expansion teams

The Alberta government committed $92 million to support CASA’s expansion, but further funding is needed to ensure programs are the best they can be for youth and their families.

“For example, when we build a building for ADP-House in, say, Fort McMurray, we need to fill it,” Paula says. “That’s where donors come in, to help basically build these play rooms and these therapy rooms and furniture and all of the things that we need to be able to serve kids and families there.”

Paula refers to the program management office as a support unit, taking the load of those who need to focus on their own work while the expansion is underway.

“The Project Managers in the PMO are process experts and facilitators,” she says. “They are also change management and risk management specialists. These are the kinds of things that this new team will bring to CASA’s projects. And they are very excited to get started!”

Specific project managers will be in place, for example, to help the rollout of CASA Classrooms, expansion of the Adolescent Day Program and House and to focus on other large internal projects.

Paula feels excited and privileged to be able to work on CASA’s expansion, particularly when visiting different communities.

She recalls meeting Wood Buffalo Mayor Sandy Bowman this past summer while he was busy helping wildfire evacuees. The question came up about the municipality being a transient community and a place for families.

His answer, Paula says, was despite multiple natural disasters and a global pandemic, people are choosing to stay in Fort McMurray. They are raising their kids and bringing their parents.

“In addition to deciding to stay, they have all experienced trauma from the fires, floods and the pandemic,” she says.

“The need is so, so high and when we talked about it with Mayor Bowman, he just said ‘the sooner you can get here, the better. We’re ready, we need it.’ So, that’s what I’m looking forward to. I’m looking forward to cutting the ribbons.”

For A Child In Immediate Crisis

If your child is in physical danger or is at risk of harming themselves or someone else, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency department.

If your child is in crisis, dial the Edmonton distress line at 780-482-4357 for immediate assistance.

May 1-7 is Mental Health Week.

For thousands of families across Alberta, every week is Mental Health Week. Support CASA Mental Health and help empower our kids and families thrive.