February 22, 2016 2:32 pm
Updated: February 22, 2016 9:44 pm

How Alberta hopes to help improve mental health and addictions services

WATCH: Thirty-eight-year-old Darren Clark died in April by suicide. His mother believes her son fell through cracks in Alberta’s mental health care system after he tried unsuccessfully to access care.


CALGARY – The province announced Monday steps it will be taking to strengthen Alberta’s mental health and addictions services.

The changes are being made in response to the recently completed Valuing Mental Health report, which was launched in June 2015.

WATCH: Heather Yourex-West breaks down Alberta’s plan to improve mental health in the province.

The report includes 32 recommendations to help improve the resources available to Albertans with mental illness and addictions, including six which were top priorities.

Minister of Health Sarah Hoffman said Monday the province plans to implement all 32 recommendations, and would begin by “immediately addressing” the six priority items, which include:

  • Adding medical detoxification beds for adults, including six to eight new beds in Lethbridge and converting 20 beds in Red Deer.
  • Expanding access to addiction treatment by opening three new social detoxification beds for children and youth in Calgary.
  • Working in partnership with First Nations, Métis and Inuit communities to develop an opiate addictions action plan.
  • Increasing technology-based solutions by launching a child and youth mental health website in spring 2016.
  • Developing a performance monitoring and evaluation framework to track results on report recommendations and benefits to Albertans.

Alberta Liberal leader Dr. David Swann and MLA Danielle Larivee were assigned as co-chairs for the review.

In a Monday news release, Swann said the current mental health system is not meeting the needs of an increasing number of Albertans.

“Successful implementation of the Mental Health Review will require a higher level of leadership from Alberta Health, and the new AHS board, than that provided by previous governments,” Swann said. “Today’s six priority recommendations are an excellent start.”

“We can and must do better.”

The estimated cost of implementing the recommendations is $4.5 million, which was already set aside in last year’s budget in anticipation of the report.

WATCH: Dr. David Swann joins Global Calgary with details on what we can expect from a new review looking at Alberta’s mental health and addictions services.

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According to the Centre for Suicide Prevention, Alberta has the second highest suicide rate among Canadian provinces.

As such, Executive Director Mara Grunau said she was pleased to see suicide prevention prioritized in the report.

“I commend the Notley Government for its bold leadership in mental health, commissioning the review and tabling the report within their first year in office,” Grunau said in a Monday news release, adding she hoped implementation of the plan would be just as timely.

The Valuing Mental Health report was submitted to Hoffman on Dec. 23. It was originally set to be released at the end of January, but was pushed back to allow time after the auditor general’s report.

– With files from Heather Yourex

© 2016 Shaw Media

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