Calgary council committee approves release of remaining $14M for mental health action plan

·3 min read
Mayor Naheed Nenshi speaks during a Calgary City council meeting in Calgary on October 31, 2018. 'Every single one of us will struggle with our mental health at some point in our lives, and it's important that the community is there to support that work,' Nenshi said at the Tuesday.  (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press - image credit)
Mayor Naheed Nenshi speaks during a Calgary City council meeting in Calgary on October 31, 2018. 'Every single one of us will struggle with our mental health at some point in our lives, and it's important that the community is there to support that work,' Nenshi said at the Tuesday. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press - image credit)

The city's finance committee has unanimously voted to approve an investment strategy for the remaining $14 million in its mental health and addiction action plan on Tuesday.

The first of its kind in Canada, the action plan is community-based, and focuses on mental wellness and connecting people who need help with resources.

City council first approved the concept with a $25 million investment in 2018, and $11 million was previously invested in various programs, services and initiatives since 2019.

Meanwhile, the remaining $14 million in funds had yet to be allocated.

Mayor Naheed Nenshi said at the finance meeting that he is proud of the city for developing ways to strengthen its support systems for those dealing with mental health and addictions issues.

"The system doesn't work for too many people," Nenshi said.

"Too many people are living lives of despair, rather than lives of dignity … or they are living lives completely devoid of hope."

Investment recommendations

The action plan's organizers and stakeholders presented recommendations for three areas where the funds should be invested.

They include community-based services and programs; Change Can't Wait!, an annual campaign to pilot new data-based ideas; and targeted investments for evidence-based initiatives.

The objective is to see progress in three areas the action plan categorized as "being well," "getting help," and "staying safe."

While some specifics weren't clear on Tuesday, ideas are being developed on a timeline that begins in 2021 and ends in 2023.

"Those three broad things are the areas that we will continue to work on immediately, to ensure that people are able to feel supported," Nenshi said.

"Every single one of us will struggle with our mental health at some point in our lives, and it's important that the community is there to support that work."

Being well, getting help and staying safe

Of the city's identified progress areas, "being well" seeks to bolster wellness for Calgarians at home, at school, at work and in the community.

It aims to promote positive mental health in workplaces and schools, and to share information in the community, to help people develop a fuller understanding of mental health and addiction.

"Getting help" is defined as accessing mental health and addictions services when and how they are needed.

Its goal is to establish a coordinated network of mental health and addictions services, and build the capacity of local organizations to better meet the needs of the community.

And lastly, "staying safe" involves strengthening existing crisis support and transforming how to respond to people and families who need it.

"When a Calgarian calls 911, there should be an option to access mental health support as well as fire, police, or ambulance," the plan reads.

'Resources will be amplified'

Karen Gosbee, one of the action plan's organizers, said initiatives and projects such as these help to amplify resources for people who need mental health supports.

Her late husband, Calgary businessman George Gosbee, died by suicide in 2017.

"People tend to … turn to me, just because I talk about it more, and the shame and the stigma obviously isn't something that I carry," Gosbee said.

"And I think this whole strategy will amplify that — that people [will want] to talk more freely, that resources will be amplified … once it's implemented."

Now that the funds have been approved for the mental health and addiction action plan, city council will discuss whether to go ahead with the plan itself next week.