Alberta government creates a cabinet task force for social issues in Calgary
Mikaela Delos Santos, News Editor
The government of Alberta is forming the Calgary Public Safety and Community Response Task Force as a means of tackling homelessness, addictions, mental health and other social issues in Calgary.
The initiatives and work of the assigned task force members includes: increasing addiction treatment capacity in Calgary, providing addiction and mental health programs in correctional facilities, expanding detox services, creating a hybrid health and police hub, forming a harm reduction and recovery outreach team, increasing access to emergency shelter spaces and improving access to affordable housing options.
The government is allocating $187 million to address addictions and homelessness in Alberta— Calgary will be receiving $58 million in funding. In 2022, the city of Calgary was given $73 million in funding for housing support and around $10 million for access to addictions treatment.
The members of the task force include: (1) Nicholas Milliken, Alta. Minister of Mental Health and Addiction, (2) Jeremy Nixon, Alta. Minister of Seniors, Community and Social Services (chair), (3) Mike Ellis, Alta. Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Services, (4) Rebecca Schulz, Alta. Minister of Municipal Affairs, (5) Reuben Breaker, Councillor Asinaipoka, Siksika Nation, (6) Jodi Two Guns, executive director of social development, Tsuu T’ina Nation, (7) Sonya Sharp, Ward 1 councillor, City of Calgary, (8) Andre Chabot, Ward 10 councillor, City of Calgary, (9) David Duckworth, city manager, City of Calgary, (10) Steve Dongworth, fire chief, Calgary Fire Department, (11) Mark Neufeld, chief constable, Calgary Police Service, (12) Kerry Bales, senior program officer, Provincial Addiction and Mental Health, Alberta Health Services, (13) Tony Pasich, associate executive director, EMS Operations, Alberta Health Services South Zone and (14) Patricia Jones, chief executive officer, Calgary Homeless Foundation.
The City of Edmonton will receive $63 million to build more access to addictions services and support for the next two years, while an additional $19 million will be designated to tackling homelessness.
Annually, the provincial government spends over $1 billion on addiction and mental health care support that includes prevention, intervention, treatment and recovery.
In 2021, Alberta launched the Digital Overdose Response System (DORS) as a means of countering substance overdoses. The application works as a timer, wherein application users are encouraged to use if they are using substances alone. If the timer session is not canceled or extended, the app alerts a response centre to properly assess the situation.
Albertans looking for addiction and mental health services are encouraged to contact 211 for information and resources in their communities. Albertans struggling with opioid addiction can contact the Virtual Opioid Dependency Program (VODP) at 1-844-383-7688, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily.