The Alberta government has launched a public task force in the province’s capital to respond to issues of addiction, homelessness and public safety.
The province says the Edmonton Public Safety and Community Response Task Force will be funded by a $187-million commitment as a response to a city that’s been hit “especially hard.”
Mental Health and Addiction Minister Nicholas Milliken said addiction has become one of the most urgent social issues facing the province — and one of the most complex.
“This task force will bring community partners together to implement a series of recovery-oriented initiatives, enhancing public safety and improving addiction and mental health care in Edmonton,” he said in a statement.
The task force has been charged with increasing addiction treatment capacity in Edmonton, providing addiction and mental health treatment programs in correctional centres and creating a hybrid health and police hub. It’s also tasked with expanding medical detox services, build harm reduction and recovery outreach teams, and expand access to emergency shelter space.
In Edmonton, $63 million of the funding will increase access to addiction services and supports over the next two years. Another $19 million has been allocated to combat homelessness.
The province already spends more than $1 billion annually on addiction and mental health care and supports, focusing efforts on prevention, intervention, treatment and recovery.
Edmonton Police Services chief of police Dale McFee said provincial services requested the integrated approach.
“It is essential leadership if we are going to unpack the multi-layered issues impacting those dealing with addiction, mental health and homelessness, and I am pleased to see the province move forward with this urgent work,” he said.
Public Safety and Emergency Services Minister Mike Ellis says addiction impacts a person’s well-being and drives them to do things that put themselves and others at risk.
“I saw this first hand during my time with the Calgary police,” said Ellis, a former Calgary Police Service sergeant.
“By bringing all the key community members together, we can build trust within the community that will result in better public safety.”
The task force includes Milliken, Ellis, and McFee, as well as other relevant cabinet ministers, City of Edmonton representatives and necessary department representatives.
The Edmonton Public Safety and Community Response Task Force will meet for the first time on Dec. 13.