Calgary committee takes a “step back” on moving towards a mental health strategy

Calgary City Hall. Global News

It’s being called “taking a step back” by the chair of Calgary city council’s community services committee.

A number of recommendations on a mental health and addiction strategy framework were defeated at a meeting on Wednesday.

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The decision comes in the wake of council directing administration to find $60 million in cuts to this year’s operating budget.

Last year, city council approved up to $25 million over five years for a mental health and addiction strategy.

A proposal to earmark $1 million to test initiatives while a strategy is being worked on was defeated.

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What is going forward instead is a proposal for the mayor’s office to reach out to the province to set up a meeting with the associate minister of mental health and addictions.

“All we’re trying to do that with a new government that’s in place is to take a step back to make sure we’re on the same page,” said Ward 13 Councillor Diane Colley-Urquhart, the chair of the committee.

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Colley-Urquhart would like to see a coordinated provincial strategy that can be developed using the work already done by the city and it’s partners such as AHS on a mental health and addiction framework.

The committee did approve spending $3 million to maintain current programs already being funded that have shown positive results, but it also rejected administration coming back with a mental health and addictions strategy and implementation plan by the end of next year.

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Colley-Urquhart said she expects many programs that come forward will get an extra level of scrutiny, as the city looks to cut down on expenditures, especially programs which are provincial responsibility.

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“Over the years we’ve waded into a lot of areas, whether it be the 10-year plan to end homelessness, affordable housing, low-income passes or mental health and addictions.

“We want to help everyone in our community but we can’t afford to be all things to all people”

While committee rejected a number of items, the report still has to go to the full city council for approval or rejection.

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