02/22/2016 12:58 EST

Alberta Mental Health Review Releases Recommendations For Province

The review makes six recommendations for the province.

Please credit Connor Mah if used elsewhere.

CALGARY — The Alberta government says it will act immediately on six of 32 recommendations from a review of the province's addictions and mental-health services.

The province says one of the suggestions it will address right away calls for more medical detoxification beds for adults in Lethbridge and Red Deer, and extra beds for children and youth in Calgary.

The government says it will also work with First Nations, Metis and Inuit communities to develop a plan to tackle opiate addictions.

"One of the ironies of mental-health care is people who are least able to navigate this system of professionals and organizations are often the ones forced to do their own navigation,'' said Liberal Leader David Swann, a medical doctor who co-chaired the review committee.

"Without these supports, many face a revolving door of crisis, reactive treatment approaches, failure and frustration and massive unnecessary expenses to the system's emergency rooms, hospital beds and jails.''

"People who are least able to navigate this system of professionals and organizations are often the ones forced to do their own navigation."

Swann said the goal of Alberta Health Services to provide assistance at the right time, in the right place and from the right professional has to become "more than a cliche.''

Also to be implemented in the near future are a child and youth mental-health website and a team to work with community and health partners to co-ordinate the report's implementation.

Alberta Health Minister Sarah Hoffman said she will be doing her best to free up cash to move ahead with other recommendations.

"I'm looking at my current budget very carefully to find ways that I might be able to move some resources around, because we can't afford not to,'' she said.

"We need to find ways to continue to improve and invest in mental health and addictions because we're talking about people's lives.''

Panel members looked at answers given on online questionnaires, examined written submissions and met with stakeholders.

Opposition says report is lacking

Drew Barnes, health critic for the Opposition Wildrose party, said the report presents some sound advice, but is lacking in other areas.

"There are still some glaring details that were not included in this report, including a comprehensive strategy for dementia in our province.''

Sheldon Kennedy, a former NHL player who was sexually abused by his junior hockey coach, appeared before the review panel. He said he is seeing results of an integrated approach to care in his work with abuse survivors at the Sheldon Kennedy Child Advocacy Centre in Calgary.

"If we look at the available systems out there, I think there are plenty. The reality is they don't work together and don't talk to each other and we're not efficient and we're not effective,'' Kennedy said.

"To me it's not just (about) throwing money into the fire. It's about looking at how do we do this and work differently.''

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