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New organizations for mental health and addictions to provide focused care and take pressure off health system

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Refocusing health care: mental health and addiction

Alberta’s government is creating two new organizations that will support the development of the mental health and addiction system of care.

In November 2023, Alberta’s government announced it would be refocusing health care with the creation of four new organizations that will be responsible for the oversight and delivery of health care services in the province. The four new organizations include acute care, continuing care, primary care and mental health and addiction. The mental health and addiction organization will be the first of these to be established when it becomes an entity later this year.

The new mental health and addiction organization, Recovery Alberta, will be responsible for the delivery of mental health and addiction services currently delivered by Alberta Health Services (AHS). In addition, Alberta’s government is establishing the Canadian Centre of Recovery Excellence (CoRE) to support Alberta’s government in building recovery-oriented systems of care by researching best practices for recovery from around the world, analyzing data and making evidence-based recommendations.

“Refocusing health care enables us to better prioritize the health care and services Albertans need. Giving Albertans living with mental health or addiction challenges an opportunity to pursue recovery and live a contributing life is the responsible and compassionate thing to do. I am so proud of the work we have done to be leaders on recovery, and I am looking forward to seeing both Recovery Alberta and the Canadian Centre of Recovery Excellence continue this work for years to come.”

Danielle Smith, Premier

“Alberta is leading the country with the development of the Alberta Recovery Model to address mental health and addiction challenges. The establishment of these two new organizations will support the delivery of recovery-oriented services to Albertans and will further cement Alberta as a leader in the field. We are proud to establish Recovery Alberta and CoRE as part of the Alberta Recovery Model.”

Dan Williams, Minister of Mental Health and Addiction

“We’re making good progress on refocusing health care in Alberta. Today marks a pivotal milestone towards creating a system that truly serves the needs of Albertans. Through this refocused approach, our aim is to prioritize the needs of individuals and families to find a primary care provider, get urgent care without long waits, access the best continuing care options, and have robust support systems for addiction recovery and mental health treatment.”

Adriana LaGrange, Minister of Health

Recovery Alberta

In August 2023, Alberta’s Ministry of Mental Health and Addiction began the process of consolidating the delivery of mental health and addiction services within AHS, a process that was completed in November 2023 with no disruption to services.

Recovery Alberta will report to the Ministry of Mental Health and Addiction and further support the Ministry’s mandate to provide high-quality, recovery-oriented mental health and addiction services to Albertans. It is anticipated Recovery Alberta will be fully operational by summer 2024 and will operate with an annual budget of $1.13 billion from Alberta’s government. This funding currently supports the delivery of mental health and addiction services through AHS.

The current provincial leadership team for Addiction and Mental Health and Correctional Health Services within AHS will form the leadership team of Recovery Alberta. When Recovery Alberta is fully established, Kerry Bales, the current Chief Program Officer for Addiction and Mental Health and Correctional Health Services within AHS will be appointed as CEO. Dr. Nick Mitchell, Provincial Medical Director, Addiction and Mental Health and Correctional Health Services within AHS, will become the Provincial Medical Director for Recovery Alberta.

“Recovery Alberta will build on the strong foundation of existing mental health and addiction services that staff and clinicians deliver. By working closely with Alberta Mental Health and Addiction and the Canadian Centre of Recovery Excellence, Recovery Alberta will continue to set a high standard of care for mental health and addiction recovery across the province, and beyond.”

Kerry Bales, chief executive officer (incoming), Recovery Alberta

“Albertans deserve patient-centered care when and where they need it. By establishing Recovery Alberta, we have an opportunity to work together in a new way to make that a reality for our patients and our communities.”

Dr. Nicholas Mitchell, provincial medical director (incoming), Recovery Alberta

While timelines are dependent on legislative amendments yet to be introduced, the Ministry of Mental Health and Addiction is aiming to establish the corporate structure of Recovery Alberta by June 3. Following the establishment of the corporate structure and executive team, staff and services would begin operation under the banner of Recovery Alberta on July 1.

Frontline workers and service providers will continue to be essential to care for Albertans. To ensure stability of services to Albertans, there will be no changes to terms and conditions of employment for AHS addiction and mental health staff transitioning to Recovery Alberta. Additionally, there will be no changes to grants or contracts for service providers currently under agreement with AHS upon establishment of Recovery Alberta.

Canadian Centre of Recovery Excellence (CoRE)

Alberta’s government has been leading the country in creating a system focused on recovery by building on evidence-based best practices from around the world. In five years, Alberta has removed user fees for treatment, increased publicly funded treatment capacity by 55 per cent and built two recovery communities with nine more on the way. Alberta’s government has also pioneered new best practices such as making evidence-based treatment medication available same day with no cost and no waitlist across the province through the Virtual Opioid Dependency Program.

To continue the innovative work required to improve the mental health and addiction system, Alberta’s government is creating the Canadian Centre of Recovery Excellence to inform best practices in mental health and addiction, conduct research and program evaluation and support the development of evidence-based policies for mental health and addiction. CoRE will be established as a crown corporation through legislation to be introduced this spring.

Alberta’s government has committed $5 million through Budget 2024 to support the establishment of CoRE. It is anticipated CoRE will be operational by this summer.

The CoRE leadership team will consist of Kym Kaufmann, former Deputy Minister of Mental Health and Community Wellness in Manitoba as the CEO. She will be supported by Dr. Nathaniel Day as Chief Scientific Officer of CoRE. Dr. Day currently serves as the Medical Director of Addiction and Mental Health within AHS.

“There is a need for more scientific evidence on how best to help those impacted by addiction within our society. The Canadian Centre of Recovery Excellence will generate new and expanded evidence on the most effective means to support individuals to start and sustain recovery.”

Kym Kaufmann, chief executive officer (incoming), Canadian Centre of Recovery Excellence

“The Canadian Centre of Recovery Excellence will provide the research and data we need to understand what works best when it comes to recovery. This new expertise and expanded evidence will provide us with further insight into how we can support communities, service providers and frontline staff to effectively help those living with addiction and mental health challenges.”

Dr. Nathaniel Day, chief scientific officer (incoming), Canadian Centre of Recovery Excellence

Quick facts

  • Budget 2024 will invest more than $1.55 billion to continue building the Alberta Recovery Model.
    • This includes a $1.13 billion transfer from Health to Mental Health and Addiction (MHA) for mental health and addiction services currently delivered by Alberta Health Services.
  • Virtual engagement sessions for AHS staff and service providers will be held on April 11, 16, 17 and 22.

Related information

This is a news release from the Government of Alberta.

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Addictions

Liberal MP blasts Trudeau-backed ‘safe supply’ drug programs, linking them to ‘chaos’ in cities

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First responders in Ottawa dealing with a crisis                                           Fridayman 0102 / YouTube
From LifeSiteNews

By Clare Marie Merkowsky

‘There is certainly the perception by a lot of Canadians that a lot of downtown cores are basically out of control,’ Liberal MP Dr. Marcus Powlowski said, before pointing specifically to ‘safe supply’ drugs and injection sites.

A Liberal MP has seemingly taken issue with “safe supply” drug policies for increasing public disorder in Canada, policies his own party, under the leadership of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, has endorsed.

During an April 15 health committee meeting in the House of Commons, Liberal MP Dr. Marcus Powlowski, while pressing the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), stated that “safe supply” drug policies have caused Canadians to feel unsafe in downtown Ottawa and in other major cities across the country.

“There is certainly the perception by a lot of Canadians that a lot of downtown cores are basically out of control,” Powlowski said.  

“Certainly there is also the perception that around places like safe supply, safe injection sites, that things are worse, that there are people openly stoned in the street,” he continued.   

“People are getting cardio-pulmonary resuscitation performed on them in the street. There are needles around on the street. There is excrement on the street,” Powlowski added.  

Safe supply“ is the term used to refer to government-prescribed drugs that are given to addicts under the assumption that a more controlled batch of narcotics reduces the risk of overdose – critics of the policy argue that giving addicts drugs only enables their behavior, puts the public at risk, disincentivizes recovery from addiction and has not reduced, and sometimes even increased, overdose deaths where implemented.

Powlowski, who has worked as an emergency room physician, also stated that violence from drug users has become a problem in Ottawa, especially in areas near so-called “safe supply” drug sites which operate within blocks of Parliament Hill.   

“A few months ago I was downtown in a bar here in Ottawa, not that I do that very often, but a couple of colleagues I met up with, one was assaulted as he was going to the bar, another one was threatened,” said Powlowski. 

“Within a month of that I was returning down Wellington Street from downtown, the Rideau Centre, and my son who is 15 was coming after me,” he continued. “It was nighttime and there was someone out in the middle of the street, yelling and screaming, accosting cars.” 

Liberal MP Dr. Brendan Hanley, the Yukon’s former chief medical officer, testified in support of Powlowski, saying, “My colleague Dr. Powlowski described what it’s like to walk around downtown Ottawa here, and certainly when I walk home every day, I encounter similar circumstances.” 

“Do you agree this is a problem?” Powlowski pressed RCMP deputy commissioner Dwayne McDonald. “Do you agree for a lot of Canadians who are not involved with drugs, that they are increasingly unhappy with society in downtown cores which are this way? Do you want to do more about this, and if you do want to do more about this, what do you need?”  

McDonald acknowledged the issue but failed to offer a solution, responding, “One of the success factors required for decriminalization is public support.” 

“I think when you are faced with situations where, as we have experienced in our communities and we hear from our communities, where public consumption in some places may lead to other members of the public feeling at risk or threatened or vulnerable to street level crime, it does present a challenge,” he continued.   

Deaths from drug overdoses in Canada have gone through the roof in recent years, particularly in British Columbia after Trudeau’s federal government effectively decriminalized hard drugs in the province.

Under the policy, which launched in early 2023, the federal government began allowing people within the province to possess up to 2.5 grams of hard drugs without criminal penalty, but selling drugs remained a crime.  

The policy has been widely criticized, especially after it was found that the province broke three different drug-related overdose records in the first month the new law was in effect.  

The effects of decriminalizing hard drugs in various parts of Canada has been exposed in Aaron Gunn’s recent documentary, Canada is Dying, and in U.K. Telegraph journalist Steven Edginton’s mini-documentary, Canada’s Woke Nightmare: A Warning to the West.  

Gunn says he documents the “general societal chaos and explosion of drug use in every major Canadian city.”  

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Addictions

Ontario and Saskatchewan join Alberta’s approach to opioid recovery

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The governments of Alberta, Ontario and Saskatchewan are establishing a partnership to build systems of care focused on recovery.

On April 3 and 4, 2024, the eighth annual Recovery Capital Conference of Canada in Calgary welcomed nearly 2,000 delegates from Alberta, across Canada and around the world. A major focus of the conference was the Alberta Recovery Model—the system of care that Alberta’s government is building to provide treatment and recovery support for people living with mental health and addiction challenges.

Ministers responsible for mental health and addiction in Alberta, Ontario and Saskatchewan have agreed to collaborate on building systems of care that focus on recovery. This highlights the importance of breaking down barriers and increasing access to recovery-oriented care, sharing best practices, advancing partnerships with Indigenous communities, and advocating to the federal government for investment and policies that support recovery.

“We are eager to share the Alberta Recovery Model because we believe it is the most dignified, comprehensive and compassionate approach in any jurisdiction across Canada to help people overcome their mental health challenges and recover from the deadly disease of addiction. I look forward to seeing what this partnership brings as we work together with other provinces on building a system of care that focuses on recovery.”

Dan Williams, Minister of Mental Health and Addiction

“Saskatchewan is focused on helping people overcome addictions and live healthy, safe lives in recovery. Under our Action Plan for Mental Health and Addictions, we are doubling capacity to make addictions treatment more available and accessible, and transitioning to a Recovery-Oriented System of Care to better care for patients. By helping people overcome addictions, we can save lives, heal families and strengthen our communities.”

Tim McLeod, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, Seniors and Rural and Remote Health, Saskatchewan

“Through our Roadmap to Wellness, Ontario is making unprecedented investments to ensure that those in our province struggling with mental health or addictions challenges get the care they need, when and where they need it. I look forward to working in closer collaboration with my colleagues from Alberta and Saskatchewan to build systems of care that prioritize recovery and help more people break free from addiction.”

Michael Tibollo, Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, Ontario

This partnership is a step forward in working with and learning from other provinces on policies that bring meaningful and lasting change to those suffering from the deadly disease of addiction, or who are facing mental health challenges.

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