Camosun College is receiving space for 20 additional full-time students in its Mental Health and Addictions (MHA) program. The money for the spaces comes from the provincial government after it cited a need for mental-health support during the COVID-19 pandemic. The government is spending $800,000 between four public post-secondary institutions on the spaces as part of its larger $10-billion COVID-19 response.
Camosun MHA program leader Jody Watson says the funding will be really helpful for the community, to assist with both the COVID-19 crisis and the opioid crisis.
“There has always been this need,” says Watson. “I think when COVID and the opioid crisis hit together, it kind of became this thing that we could no longer ignore.”
Watson says the MHA program currently has a strong focus on harm reduction and the important role harm reduction can have in recovery; this wasn’t always the case in the program.
“Maybe five years ago we wouldn’t have been talking about [harm reduction] as much, or really highly recommending for our students to get their Naloxone training,” she says. “That’s kind of recent in the last two, three years during the opioid crisis that we’ve just seen how we train, and what we train them for, is a bit different now.”
Because of the crises, fundamentals such as warm beds to sleep in or a place to connect with resourses—be it doctors appointments or recovery meetings—are not the same as they once were, says Watson.
“Some people are falling through the cracks as a result of what’s going on… These aren’t folks that are getting their needs met on social media, the people that our students support,” says Watson. “That’s not really our clientele. It’s people that really rely on that face-to-face contact.”
Watson says many MHA graduates go into social work, while others work in mental health group homes.
“They do a lot of the frontline stuff,” says Watson. “Our mental health group homes are often in need of trained workers, and then our outreach teams and workers are often in need of more people… We’re so happy to have these extra seats. We had students on a waitlist, so it was great to be able to offer some seats sooner than September for those students.”
The other institutions receiving funding are Vancouver Island University, Selkirk College, and Nicola Valley Institute of Technology.
At Camosun, the spaces will open in May of this year.