Alberta Mental Health and Addiction Minister Nicholas Milliken has revealed members of the new Recovery Expert Advisory Panel who will advise the province on its recovery-oriented systems of care. The panel includes a prominent physician who advised former US Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

Milliken made the announcement at the Alberta Recovery Conference on Wednesday, just one day after Premier Danielle Smith said budget 2023 contained plans to invest $275 million in funding for the ministry of mental health and addiction, up from $87 million in 2019.

The minister said all 16 members want to be a part of Alberta’s focus on making sure that every person in the province has the opportunity to pursue recovery. 

“We are making waves with regards to recovery oriented systems of care for the people of this province and for everyone’s struggling addiction,” Miliken said. “They are here to help us.”

The government said the panel is made up of experts from diverse fields who will provide ongoing advice on research and innovation policy and standards developments as well as evaluation and outcomes reporting. The Recovery Expert Advisory Panel will provide ongoing advice for a period of one year, with the possibility of extension.

The panel will be chaired by Dr. Keith Humphreys, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford University. Humphreys also served as the drug policy adviser to US presidents George Bush and Barack Obama. Dr. Nathaniel Day, the medical lead of the Alberta Health Services Rural Opioid Dependency Program and a member of the minister’s Opioid Emergency Response Commission, will serve as vice chair.

Humphreys said he looks forward to supporting Alberta in its recovery-focused approach to treating addiction and mental health challenges

“The Alberta model is not only making a difference in the lives and health outcomes of the people in this province – it’s helping to bring recovery to the forefront of health policy discussions in Canada and beyond,” he said in a statement. 

Other notable members include Charles Weaselhead, chancellor at the University of Lethbridge and former chief of the Blood Tribe and grand chief of Treaty 7, Dr. John Kelly, professor of psychiatry in addiction medicine at Harvard Medical School, and Dr. Anna Lembke, professor and chief of Addiction Medicine Dual Diagnosis Clinic at Stanford University.

The minister said politicians and decision makers “for too long” pushed discussions about supporting recovery-oriented systems of care and improving recovery capital to the side. 

“These goals have often been painted as too difficult, too demanding or completely unrealistic,” he said.

“So we have sought to change that over the past four years, to give people who are living with mental health challenges and the illness of addiction hope that recovery is possible for them.” 

Speaking at the conference on Monday, Smith said Alberta is “indisputably” Canada’s leader in a recovery oriented system of care following the four years of the United Conservative Party government’s efforts to address homelessness and addictions epidemic. 

“Since being elected in 2019, our government has sought to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to pursue recovery,” she said.

“There are some of us that tell us that we have unreasonable expectations, predicting that recovery is not an achievable or even a realistic goal. But what they fail to understand is this: when we see recovery as possible, we’re providing hope and optimism to people who are often living without any hope. We’re saying that you can recover and there is a better life for you that you deserve and that we will be there for you.”


  • Rachel Emmanuel

    Rachel is a seasoned political reporter who’s covered government institutions from a variety of levels. A Carleton University journalism graduate, she was a multimedia reporter for three local Niagara newspapers. Her work has been published in the Toronto Star. Rachel was the inaugural recipient of the Political Matters internship, placing her at The Globe and Mail’s parliamentary bureau. She spent three years covering the federal government for iPolitics. Rachel is the Alberta correspondent for True North based in Edmonton.