April 29, 2021
UCalgary community informs City’s new mental health and addiction strategy
Calgary’s new Mental Health and Addiction Strategy will improve supports for Calgarians with mental health and addiction issues, an initiative University of Calgary researchers helped create and where they’ll play an important future role.
A May 4 town hall, hosted by the O’Brien Institute for Public Health and the Mathison Centre for Mental Health Research and Education at the Cumming School of Medicine (CSM), includes university leaders and Mayor Naheed Nenshi. The forum will introduce the new strategy and action plan to the University of Calgary community, and outline future opportunities for researchers to work with The City on implementing the strategy and evaluating its outcomes.
The strategy comes as the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the mental health of many Calgarians.
“The City convened a number of partners to develop the strategy and they relied on evidence to inform it, and to evaluate what actions are most likely to be effective going forward,” says Dr. Suzanne Tough, PhD, an O’Brien Institute member who helped with the strategy.
Being well, getting help, staying safe
UCalgary researchers have played a key role in designing the strategy, identifying service gaps in support networks, outreach services and emergency response systems, including gaps in racially and culturally appropriate services.
According to Tough, getting involved in this project is an important opportunity for researchers who are interested in seeing their work be applied to contemporary circumstances.
The benefit aligns directly with the University of Calgary's vision of giving back to the community.
"The community has come to researchers and evaluation specialists with specific content areas where they need more information,” says Tough, a professor with the departments of Paediatrics and Community Health Sciences, who is also a member of the Alberta Children's Hospital Research Institute at the CSM.
“We don't know what the best solutions are going to be until we understand the context of mental health and addiction challenges and generate evidence.”
The strategy, which was endorsed by City Council March 22, 2021, and has funding of up to $25 million over five years (2019-2023), has three main themes: being well, getting help, and staying safe.
Tough says challenges due to the pandemic are also reflected in the strategy, which addresses the role of community in strengthening natural supports for people, families and communities living with mental health and addiction issues.
Mental health and addiction affects all of us, and by strengthening our support systems to prevent problems from turning into crises, we will improve the lives of Calgarians, says Nenshi, who will also speak at the upcoming event.
“Calgary’s landmark mental health and addiction strategy is the first of its kind in Canada and can serve as a model for municipalities across the country. By developing a plan to unite agencies and governments that support mental health, we are creating a comprehensive community support system that will allow Calgarians to quickly access help based on their individual need.”
This initiative speaks to UCalgary’s aspirations to deepen its integration in the community, says Dr. William Ghali, vice-president (research).
“Mental health and addiction are public health issues that touch all of our lives, and collaborating with The City of Calgary and community partners to address these challenges is one way that we are fostering mutually beneficial research relationships in our city,” he says.
Registration for Connect the Dots: Supporting Mental Health in Calgary Through Research, on May 4, from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m., is now open.