Updated: 5 days ago
Like the rest of us, I am very worried about the scars the pandemic will leave behind. I have heard from residents that the scars are deep (I definitely have a few) and electing a council with a firm dedication to healing those scars is imperative. This coming election is a way for Calgarians to move through the challenges that we currently face ~ and electing a council who can see these obstacles as opportunities for growth will be beneficial for us to face the reality of where we are, where we can go, and how we can get there.
From the very beginning of my campaign, I have stated that mental health and addictions is a key priority for the hard work I want to do as your Ward 9 Councillor. I believe that in order to have a healthy vibrant city, we must take care of all of our citizens. I believe that every single Calgarian should feel *safe and that the right supports are available for the most vulnerable citizens. We have to remember that when we’re talking about vulnerable citizens who may fall under the category of Mental Health and Addictions, they may not all face the same challenges and pressures ~ they are residents with unique needs in different life circumstances.
The pandemic has exacerbated the use of opioids, alcohol, and other substance use. It is, what I call an endemic within a pandemic. Overdoses and alcohol-related deaths have increased during the pandemic. In the first seven months of the year, 720 Albertans have succumbed to overdoses while alcohol-related deaths have also increased. Experts in the field of addictions have stated the pandemic has added to substance use by heightened overall mental health pressures. In addition economic, social, and psychological impacts, plus increased isolation have definitely played a role in increased substance use. While the provincial government is injecting money into abstinence-based recovery, that does not help solve the immediate need of people dying from an overdose, whereas safe consumption sites would. I would advocate for a solution-based approach such as that which is currently being offered in BC. Overdose deaths are typically a result of a contaminated supply of street drugs. I think, therefore, that to help save lives now, we need users to have a safe supply before entering treatment. Although public health is under our provincial government, I would advocate ensuring that Calgarians have access to innovative new approaches such as a prescribed, safer supply, and a continuum of safe injection sites.
Some of the hot topic issues to be addressed in this election are the Downtown Strategy, Creating Investment & Policing. While I see the need for a Downtown Strategy and attracting new investment into Calgary I propose taking a first-things-first approach. When people think about Calgary’s downtown core ~ they think of empty office towers and unemployment and far too much social disorder involving homelessness, crime, and open drug use - mostly because there is a lack to social resources for mental health and addictions. While it may not seem like a direct action for the Downtown Strategy, my first action would be to work to get the vulnerable population in the core to access the help they need. I would advocate allocating a portion of the $200M Downtown Strategy to take care of our most vulnerable first. I would use a portion of the $200M investment so that we could house vulnerable Calgarians by partnering with organizations that can provide the type of shelter and social resources needed to provide citizens with the help they need. This idea ties closely to attracting investment to Calgary because most organizations/investors want to know that they’re investing in a city that takes care of its people.
With respect to policing, our vulnerable, and Calgarians who experience mental health and addictions challenges, I want to partner with the Calgary Police Service to improve the way in which we approach policing in our communities. The policing budget is approximately $400M and I propose allocating a flexible percentage (based on evolving societal needs) of that budget to support social agencies. We need to engage stakeholders, CPS, social organizations, and community leaders working in the area of mental health and addictions. I believe in building an outcome-drive-approach to assist our citizens experiencing mental health and addictions issues. We need to work to ensure that our citizens are accessing the ‘RIGHT’ services for the right situation, at the right time. I also believe by supporting and mobilizing the appropriate social services there will never be a need for over-policing while citizens are being underserved.
But first, in order for us to do that, we need a comprehensive review of the approach we’re currently taking so that not a single Calgarian is overlooked.
Here are a few of the ideas I have.
Look at the approach to funding – advocate other levels of Government to ensure that we’re getting the results we’re looking for
Work collaboratively with our provincial and federal governments to ensure investments made into our Mental Health and Addictions strategy are sustainable
Ensure that the remaining ±$9M in the Mental Health and Addiction funding is spent on tangible results (achieving positive outcomes for those in need, NOW)
Create standards to achieve an outcome-oriented approach
The current funding ends in 2023 – we need to continue to invest in our vulnerable population
Ensure that we’re bringing a wide range of social agencies and service providers together to achieve a collaborative approach to find the best solutions
Ensure that we are leveraging the collective strengths of our social agencies and incentivize productive partnerships to come together to find efficient and effective solutions
Ensure that all capital projects are available and accessible to all Calgarians, not just a select group of citizens.
IN ORDER FOR CALGARY TO BE PROSPEROUS AND VIBRANT ~ EVERY CALGARIAN DESERVES ACCESS TO THE SERVICES THEY NEED. WHEN THEY NEED THEM. AND THE RIGHT TO HAVE A ROOF OVER THEIR HEAD. AND I BELIEVE ACCESS TO MENTAL HEALTH CARE IS A HUMAN RIGHT.
* safe means that ALL parties involved in a social disorder call know exactly what resources are needed for successful outcomes.