Calgary councillors to propose city-wide mental health, social disorder strategy

A person is seen pushing a cart in Calgary. Global News

On Monday, Calgary City Council will be asked to commit $25 million from the city’s so-called rainy day fund to deal with issues of crime, social disorder, mental health and addictions.

The proposal from Mayor Naheed Nenshi and six councillors says the recent economic downturn has increased the number of concerns from citizens about these issues.

Nenshi says the concerns highlight the need for a community strategy to tackle the concerns.

“This is very episodic and it’s very reactive, and the solutions that have worked well in the city are solutions where we bring the community together in what I call a ‘systems-wide view,'” he said on Thursday. “And my sense is we need to take a systems-wide view on mental health, on addiction and on crime prevention, and looking at those things together.

“When I talked to the young woman who bought a condo in the East Village so that she could live and work downtown, but now has to drive because she’s not comfortable walking into her own building after dark, clearly something is not working well.”

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Nenshi says he envisions a program similar to the city’s 10-year plan to end homelessness and the initiative to reduce poverty.

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“We are spending a lot of money, enormous amounts of money, in a very uncoordinated fashion,” Nenshi said. “So it really is important for us to come together and do this. Similarly, the city had to take the lead in creating the 10-year plan to end homelessness. The city had to take the lead in the poverty reduction strategy, and in neither of those [cases did the city spend]… any more money, but they ended up in a system that spent the existing money much more efficiently.”

Nenshi says this isn’t the city wading into territory that belongs to the province. He says he envisions a broad collaboration with Alberta Health Services and other social agencies — as well as the private sector — to come up with initiatives to deal with the problem.

“So it really is about ending the stigma, figuring out how we work together to ensure that folks working through these issues have the issues they need, and citizens feel safe on every street in the community.”

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