The Alberta government says it will spend up to $7.3 million over three years to expand its network of youth mental health hubs.
The hubs, which were first piloted in 2017, offer one-stop shops for a range of services outside of large urban centres. The first $3 million in funding will be allocated this year.
Children's Services Minister Rebecca Schulz said the services are even more vital now due to the pandemic.
"These youth hubs are absolute game changers for young people in need and making sure that they have access to safe, confidential, integrated mental health supports and services," said Schulz on Tuesday.
Youth can access health care, mental health and addiction supports, social services, and housing and school supports, depending on the location.
There are eight hubs in different stages of development in the following areas:
The Tri-region area (Parkland County, Stony Plain and Spruce Grove).
Enoch Cree Nation.
Maskwacis/Samson Cree Nation.
Four more hubs are planned. Those locations will be announced in coming months.
The funding is also going to go toward developing a central governance structure, to ensure consistency across the different hubs and to connect them with other provincial services. The province said it is also exploring adding virtual supports.
"These hubs … are primarily located in rural areas. They struggle for a lack of available resources for youth," said Mike Ellis, Alberta's associate minister of mental health and addictions. "We want youth to get help before they're in crisis."
The money comes from $140 million in funding the province has pledged over four years to support the mental health and addiction care system.
The province said Albertans can call 811 or 211 for information about regional in-person services and supports for youth.