Childhood Mental Health and the CASA Foundation

Mental health disorders represent some of the fastest growing disabilities in Canada, and these disorders can affect anyone.

There are many great agencies and foundations in Edmonton whose staff and volunteers work hard to improve the mental health of individuals in our community; these organizations are a critical part of an engaged civil society. This week, I’d like to recognize one such group for outstanding work in the Edmonton region.

The CASA Foundation does community-based work that improves conditions for families and children who are struggling with mental health issues. CASA provides assessment and treatment for around 4000 infants, children, and adolescents, offering them a range of supports, from consultation in community outreach settings to intense treatment programs. 82% of the children that CASA supports come from within Edmonton.

Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to attend the CASA Carnival, an event that celebrated and elevated the work that CASA does in Child, Adolescent, and Family Mental Health Services. The event was simply amazing, with all sorts of visual delights, and an even more astounding fundraising accomplishment: $1.2 million dollars was raised in the course of the evening in support of CASA’s new centre.

Former St. Agnes Building

On March 9th of this year, the old St. Agnes School building in Allendale, where CASA had been operating for some time, was demolished to open up the site for CASA’s new centre. The CASA Centre will offer treatment for children and adolescents with mental health needs from all over central and northern Alberta. The majority of children (37%) that CASA supports are 5 to 11 years old, and many require specialized facilities to help them develop their personal and academic skills. The new facility will offer increased capacity and service capabilities to assist more children and youth.

The design for the new CASA centre

This centre will be possible largely due to the generosity of CASA’s corporate sponsors, including Master Pools Alta, Beaverbrook, and many many others. Improving the mental health of our children and youth will lift the whole community up, and these companies clearly understand that it takes the involvement of the whole polus to bring about positive, holistic change.

The Canadian Institute for Health Information estimates that by the year 2030, mental illness will be the leading cause of disability in high-income countries. The Centre for Mental Health in the Workplace claims that economic cost of mental illness is already equivalent to 20% of corporate profits. The estimated cost of one case of conduct disorder that goes untreated can be up to $1.8 million. If we want to slow down this trend and ease the burden that elevated rates of mental illness will place on our healthcare system, it is proven that early childhood intervention is the most effective route to doing so.

By intervening with home visits, early childhood education, and intervention services like those offered by CASA, we can expect a return on public investment of close to $1.80 input to $17.07 output. Not only is the support CASA provides critical to the quality of life of children and their families, but it is vital to the future sustainability of our healthcare system.

We will all reap the rewards of the investment that CASA and its sponsors have made into improving quality of life for the children and their families who are struggling with mental health issues. Many of these children and adolescents, with the support of organizations like CASA, will be able to become fully engaged community members that add to our collective diversity.  When the most vulnerable individuals among us are fully supported and engaged in the community, we will know that we have succeeded in creating a truly inclusive community.

If you would like to make a donation to CASA to support their work in the Edmonton Region, you can do so here.: https://www.canadahelps.org/en/charities/casa-child-and-adolescent-services-association-foundation/