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City asks Calgarians for ideas on how to tackle mental health, addiction issues

Last Updated Jan 28, 2020 at 8:58 am MDT

CALGARY (660 NEWS) – The City of Calgary is providing $1 million in funding for new ideas to help navigate and access mental health and addiction care.

The city wants to build a roadmap for those in need so no one falls through the cracks or gets lost between various systems of support.

“We don’t want to wait until the new strategies are in place. We don’t want to wait until the community action on mental health and addiction groups and their action tables come up with brilliant fully baked ideas,” Mayor Naheed Nenshi said.

“We want to do something that is very unique for government to do, which is move to fast pilots,” Nenshi added.

The “Change Can’t Wait” campaign is accepting proposals, no matter the issue, until Feb. 16.

Karen Gosbee is the co-chair of a group of community leaders supporting the Community Action on Mental Health and Addiction. She lost her husband, George Gosbee, to suicide in late 2017.

“I want to say, like many Calgarians, we found it very difficult to navigate the system for the supports that we needed that were available in our city,” Gosbee said.

She added the investment of $1 million into rapid test pilots will help inform long term community strategies for mental health and substance abuse.

Funding is available to quickly test ideas that can demonstrate results within 120 days of receiving funding.

When addressing the harm reduction sites, Nenshi said we’ll have to wait and see if the ideas that come forward will relate to supervised consumption sites.

When it comes to the relocation of the current site at the Sheldon Chumir Centre, Nenshi said it’s out of his hands.

“Ultimately, that is the province’s decision. I am anxiously, anxiously, anxiously awaiting my opportunity to read the report of the task force.”

In August, the UCP government appointed a panel to review the effects of supervised consumption sites in the province, including Calgary’s facility at the Sheldon Chumir Health Centre.

“It certainly is possible that at least some will be relocated. It’s never been our intention to shut all of the sites but we’re taking a very close look based on the data,” said Premier Jason Kenney.

Alberta Health Services reported that as of November 2019, there had been close to 117,000 visits to the Beltline site, including more than 1,200 overdoses reversed.

Kenney, however, has been somewhat critical of the facilities.

“They’re more than injection sites, They’re just drug sites that do all sorts of drugs, not just injectibles.”

Ideas for the campaign are expected to be launched in May and report back on results in mid-September.

-with files from Derek Brade, Jackie Perez, CityNews