Kneehill grants funds for suicide awareness course

Written by Stu Salkeld

Kneehill County council agreed to grant funds for a suicide awareness course in cooperation with the Kneehill Adult Learning Council, but voiced concern that some agencies may not be cooperating as much as they could. 

The decision was made at the Nov. 10 regular meeting of council.

County Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Mike Haugen presented a memo to councillors as a followup to a previous request heard from the learning council looking for funding to cover the costs of a guest speaker offering the SafeTALK suicide awareness program.

“Administration presented this request to Council at the Oct. 27, 2020 council meeting,” stated the staff memo.

 “At that time, council directed administration to request further information.

“Attached to this request for decision is a letter we received from Kneehill Adult Learning Society. 

“They are requesting that Kneehill County sponsor the cost of the workshop and trainer fees in the amount of $1,530. 

“They have approached the Town of Three Hills for sponsorship as well.

“The organization also communicated that if they don’t receive the funding from the county that they will do their best to explore other avenues of funding. 

“They strongly believe this is a workshop the community needs at this time.” 

SafeTALK is a basic suicide awareness and prevention course that takes four hours to complete.

Haugen provided councillors with a letter from Adult Learning Society Literacy Coordinator Emma Dabrowski dated Oct. 10. 

“2020 has been a particularly challenging year for so many people; Alberta suicide rates are expected to spike in response,” stated Dabrowski’s letter. 

“It is not unreasonable to think that this will affect people in Kneehill County.

“One significant way to bring awareness and provide suicide alertness skills is to host SafeTALK training.” 

Dabrowski said Calgary’s Centre for Suicide Prevention provides the training for a group of up to 30 people, with workshop and trainer fees adding up to $1,530 and if the county granted funds for this program the public could attend for free.

Haugen stated the Town of Three Hills donated the venue space for this event. 

He went on to say there is a bit of room in the operating budget to grant this request.

Coun. Faye McGhee asked if Kneehill County already provides Family and Community Support Services funding for requests like this.

Coun. Ken King stated he was wondering the same thing, and contacted Kneehill Regional FCSS Director Shelley Jackson who responded that there are some meetings being held for mental health in the community but the interagency focus doesn’t include SafeTALK. 

Interagency is a regular meeting of local health agencies.

King expressed that he was concerned that it appeared the adult learning group wasn’t communicating with other agencies.

Coun. Wade Christie also voiced a concern  that it didn’t appear the local victim services agency was involved either and wondered if local agencies need to communicate better.

McGhee stated times are tight right now and pointed out cooperation makes grant funding go further than everyone going alone.

Reeve Jerry Wittstock was also concerned.

 “It would be nice to have the agencies maybe coordinate a little better,” said Wittstock. 

King responded that many agencies do cooperate, it just appears that this SafeTALK request wasn’t one of them.

Councillors approved granting $1,530 to the adult learning council for the SafeTALK course but also encouraged all groups working in mental health to cooperate as much as possible.


Stu Salkeld, Local Journalism Initiative reporter

ECA Review

About the author

Stu Salkeld

Stu Salkeld, who has upwards of 28 years of experience in the Alberta community newspaper industry, is now covering councils and other news in the Stettler region and has experience working in the area as well.

He has joined the ECA Review as a Local Journalism Initiative Journalist.

Stu earned his two-year diploma in print journalism from SAIT in Calgary from 1993 to ’95 and was raised in Oyen, Alta., one of the communities within the ECA Review’s coverage area.