Calgary

Nenshi proposes $25M of city's rainy-day fund go to mental health, addiction supports

'We need to take a system-wide view on addiction, on mental health, on crime prevention'

July 26, 2018

Mayor Naheed Nenshi says the system through which Calgarians access mental-health supports is "horribly confusing," and he'd like to see it streamlined. (CBC)

Calgary's mayor is hoping to spend $25 million from the city's rainy day fund to support those living with mental health issues or addiction. 

Mayor Naheed Nenshi said that over the past several years the city has seen a rise in social disorder and property crimes.

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Council has responded by increasing the Calgary Police Service's budget and putting $3-7 million a year into crime prevention initiatives, he said, but more is needed.

"My sense is we need to take a system-wide view on addiction, on mental health, on crime prevention."

Nenshi will present a notice of motion at Monday's meeting, asking that $25 million from the Fiscal Stability Reserve fund by used for crime prevention and a new mental health and addictions strategy over the next five years.

Of that total, $15 million would be allocated to the Community Services Prevention Investment Framework and $10 million used to create a community-wide mental health, addiction and crime prevention strategy, similar to the 10-Year plan to end homelessness.

The mayor said that he felt the system through which Calgarians access mental-health supports is "horribly confusing," and he'd like to see it streamlined.

"It really is about ending the stigma, figuring out how we work together to ensure that folks working through these issues have the resources we need, and citizens feel safe on every street," he said.

Calgary Counselling Centre CEO Dr. Robbie Babins-Wagner said the downturn had a serious impact on mental health and addiction in the city.

"We know we have access issues. We know that economic conditions generally result in increased crime. And we know that citywide we haven't had an addictions or mental health strategy," she said. 

Babins-Wagner said that depending on what the strategy looks like, portions of the funding may need to come from different levels of government. 

The city had approximately $2 billion in its reserve fund as of 2016.

In response to a question about whether or not mental health spending should be the province's domain, Nenshi said he feels it's more about safety.

"Community safety is very clearly the city's responsibility," he said, pointing to city spending on police, bylaw, fire and family and community social services.

"We are spending enormous amounts of money in a very unco-ordinated fashion."

He said he hopes, if the funding is approved, to bring Alberta Health Services, frontline agencies, Calgary police and other stakeholders around the table to talk solutions.  

With files from Elizabeth Snaddon.

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