Alberta Health says more addiction and mental health initiatives coming this spring
Two years after the Valuing Mental Health Report was published, advocates say the government needs to speed up implementing the outstanding recommendations
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The president of the Minds Over Matter Mental Health Society is frustrated the Alberta government hasn’t fully implemented 32 recommendations from Alberta’s Valuing Mental Health Review (VMHR), tabled two years ago.
“The government needs to quit dragging its feet,” said Rick Lundy, a longtime patient advocate.
“The longer (they) take to implement these, the more mental health patients fall through the cracks and it just compounds the problem,” he said.
In last week’s provincial budget, the NDP announced a $45 million increase in spending overall for addiction and mental health services. At the time, Finance Minister Joe Ceci said part of that increase will be allocated to implement the VMHR’s recommendations.
“Now they have the funding, there’s no reason we can’t see a plan within the next six weeks or so and get on with some of the key elements of this implementation,” said Dr. David Swann, co-chair of the VMHR.
He added lots of work has been ongoing in the background since the report was tabled in December 2015. Several ministries and groups are involved, including human services, education, health care, and the police.
In direct response to the report, grants were designated for Alberta Health Services (AHS): $1.5 million dollars to address the current gaps and improve access to mental health and addiction services, and another $3 million to open new opioid dependency treatment facilities in Cardston, Grande Prairie, and Fort McMurray. The Central Zone, with a specific location yet to be determined, will also get a clinic.
According to Alberta Health, initiatives related to the remaining recommendations will be moving ahead starting this spring.
Associate Minister of Health Brandy Payne said her government is committed to their promise of fixing a chronically “fragmented and underfunded” system.
“The VMHR was part of keeping that promise, and we’re backing those recommendations up with significant funding,” Payne said.