Facing Addiction During COVID-19

Grant from ECF enables Mental Health Foundation to help those living with addiction during pandemic

For all of the ways the COVID-19 pandemic has abruptly changed our public lives, its quieter impact has been on our psychological well-being.

“Even those of us who don’t struggle with mental illness regularly, we’re really coming face to face with what it means to be isolated,” explains Sam Fitzner, communications lead at the Mental Health Foundation. “To lose your support networks, and to not feel safe all the time to go out and get the things that you need.”

The Mental Health Foundation supports some 50,000 Albertans through a variety of services, helping fund programs within Alberta Health Services’ Addiction and Mental Health branch. Its clients have been hit particularly hard by the pandemic: Some of the most vulnerable among them have had their mental health exacerbated to the point where it’s difficult for them to take care of day-to-day needs, which makes managing their mental health even more difficult.

“It doesn’t take long to really exacerbate someone’s symptoms to a point where they may not engage with services at all,” Fitzner says.

Fortunately, the Mental Health Foundation received $50,000 from  Edmonton Community Foundation (ECF) through the Emergency Community Support Fund (ECSF). That money has allowed them to provide COVID Emergency Essentials Packages to those in need.

Together, the Canadian Red Cross, Community Foundations of Canada and United Way Centraide Canada are collaborating with the Government of Canada to flow ECSF support to those who need it most right now.

The Emergency Essentials Packages are specific to their recipients: Some will have groceries, while others might include more portable nourishment, or books, and others ways to occupy time, all depending on the individual’s situation. But each package will ultimately make it easier for its recipient to manage day-to-day life in the pandemic, and thus to access mental-health services when necessary.

“It’s just finding whatever way we can to make COVID times a bit more comfortable for these people,” Fitzner says. “So that we can maintain their basic needs, which would allow them to focus in the future on their mental health. Because they can’t focus on their mental health until their basic needs are taken care of.”

Originally, the Foundation only had the resources to create packages for two particularly vulnerable AHS programs. But the ECSF funding has made it possible to expand the initiative to all AHS Addiction and Mental Health programs, ensuring more clients can access the support they need when they need it.

“Because of this funding,” Fitzner says, “We’re able to get to more clients.”

Learn more about ECF’s COVID-19 response.