Mental health and addictions advisory council

An advisory council provided recommendations to improve access to recovery-oriented care and better support Albertans who need help to get on their path to recovery.


The Mental Health and Addictions Advisory Council is helping inform an Alberta model of addiction and mental health care to improve access to recovery-oriented services.

Recommendations from the council are helping to move our addiction and mental health approach toward our vision that Albertans have an opportunity for recovery, hope, and to live healthy productive lives.


  • Open

  • Results under review

  • Completed

Who is listening

Ministry of Mental Health and Addiction


Recommendations from the advisory council are helping inform Alberta’s transformation to a recovery-oriented system of addiction and mental health care.

Council mandate

The council collaborated with stakeholders to identify key actions to improve access to recovery-oriented mental health and addiction services, with particular focus on primary and home care services, and for people in crisis or in contact with the justice system.

They built on the work of the:

Stakeholders included existing Mental Health and Addictions Advisory and Integration Committees:

  • community members/organizations representing crisis services, home care services. First Nation and Métis health and civil society representatives
  • community service providers such as the Canadian Mental Health Association, Alberta Alliance on Mental Illness and Mental Health, United Way, faith-based organizations, for-profit and not-for-profit providers
  • government ministries and agencies including Alberta Health Services, Mental Health Patient Advocate, law enforcement and justice authorities
  • industry representatives from oil and gas, private insurers and other business representatives

Council members

The advisory council brought together members with lived experience, experience in emergency and crisis services, mental health and addiction recovery services, primary and home care settings, Indigenous health, justice, law enforcement and civil society.

Laureen MacNeil, co-chair

Laureen has held senior management and leadership positions in the non-profit, private and public sectors. She has a passion for transformational change that leads to better health outcomes. Most recently she was executive director at the Canadian Mental Health Association Calgary Region (CMHA Calgary). Under her leadership, CMHA Calgary launched the first Recovery College in Alberta. Recovery College is an innovative, educational approach where courses are co-designed and co-delivered by individuals with lived experience of mental health and in recovery from addiction.

Laureen is a graduate of Dalhousie University earning a bachelor's degree in industrial engineering and a master's degree in health services administration. She has completed the ICD Rotman Directors Education Program and holds an executive certificate in management and leadership from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology – Sloan School of Management.

Pat Nixon, co-chair

Patrick has lived experience of homelessness, incarceration and addiction. Previously, he was the executive director of Oxford House Foundation of Canada and in 1984 founded the Mustard Seed Ministry. He served as a member of the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada Council of Presidents, a board member of the Canadian Roundtable on Poverty and Homelessness and a mentor and trainer for poverty and street workers across Canada. Pat also cofounded StreetLevel, a national coalition offering training, networking and support for street and poverty workers across Canada.

In 2001, he was named Calgary’s Citizen of the Year and became a member of the Order of Canada in 2005. He was inducted into the Alberta Order of Excellence in 2007.

Jacen Abrey

Jacen Abrey is currently the Blood Tribe Fire and EMS director, the alternate director for the Alberta Fire Chiefs Association (Region 7) and a councillor for the town of Coaldale.

Jacen has over 33 years of experience in emergency services across the province, including working the Slave Lake Fire in 2011, the Southern Alberta Wildland Fires in 2011 and 2012, the Southern Alberta Floods in 2013, the Fort McMurray Wildfire in 2016 and the Kenow “Waterton” Fire in 2017. Jacen received his 12-year service medal and his 20-year Exemplary Service Medal for Fire and was honoured with the Queens Diamond Jubilee Medal for his service.

Dr. Ray Baker

Dr. Baker specialized in occupational addiction medicine and recovery-oriented continuing care during his career as a physician licensed in British Columbia. He also served as an assistant professor in the University of British Columbia’s faculty of medicine, where he developed, implemented and taught the addiction medicine curriculum.

Dr. Baker has provided expert assistance to many organizations through consultation, policy development, personnel training, comprehensive diagnostic evaluations/treatment planning and expert testimony. He has also authored or contributed to literature on addiction treatment and serves on the editorial board of the Journal of Addictive Diseases. Dr. Baker is currently completing a workbook on Recovery-Oriented Knowledge and Skills for Clinicians.

Allison Bichel

Allison Bichel is the senior provincial director with AHS in the Addiction and Mental Health and Maternal Child Newborn and Youth Strategic Clinical Networks. Previously, she was the executive director for the Provincial Access Team with AHS. She serves as a director on the Foothills Country Hospice Society Board of Directors.

She holds her master degree of Public Health from San Jose State University, a master of business administration from Royal Roads University, master of arts in Human Development from Fielding Graduate University and a Ph.D in Human and Organizational Systems from Fielding Graduate University.

Brad Cardinal

Brad Cardinal is the executive director of Poundmakers Lodge Treatment Centres. Brad is a former social worker with extensive experience in hospitals, government and private practice.

Brad also brings awareness and understanding of addiction and mental health to the broader public and works with government and communities to develop policies to promote better health systems, support vulnerable Indigenous populations and drive social change.

Brad has been recognized for his engagement with, and support of, various Indigenous, cultural, heritage and health based activities.

Andy Crooks

Andy Crooks is a Calgary based lawyer and current president of RichCrooks Enterprises. He was a founding director of Simon House, a private addiction treatment centre based in Calgary since 1986, actively helping people with addiction issues, especially those focusing on alcohol use. He also supported the creation and management of the Lawyer’s Assist Program, which assists lawyers with issues with alcohol.

Andy was the former chairperson of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, a founding board member of Charities Intelligence and the Canadian Landmines Foundation, and sat on the board of Lakehead University. He is currently the director of the Canadian Constitution Foundation, and the Glenbow Ranch Park Foundation; he is also a member of the Alberta Municipal Government Board.

Rob Davidson

Rob Davidson is an inspector with the Calgary Police with over 27 years of emergency services and law enforcement experience in a variety of roles and functions including search and rescue, emergency management, firefighting and policing.

Within the Calgary Police Service, he has worked in both operational and investigative positions with experience leading a variety of service-wide crime reduction strategies. He has worked closely with governmental and community partners’ to find appropriate responses and solutions to complex problems. He is currently in command of policing resources in Calgary’s city centre where mental health and addictions are key factors.

Bruce Edgelow

Bruce Edgelow is the managing partner and founder of Edgemark Capital, which he formed with his business partner in March 2017. Bruce has over 46 years of banking experience and spent 31 years with the Royal Bank of Canada focusing on lending to the oil and gas industry.

Bruce is an active member in his community and church activities, including being a co-leader for a Leader Impact group. He also serves as director for Calgary Health Trust and chair of the Peter Lougheed Centre Development Council.

Karen Gosbee

Karen Gosbee is an advocate and community leader in mental health in Calgary. She and her three children lost their husband and father to suicide when he was 48 years old.

Before his death, she often felt hopeless and struggled to navigate the resources available to support her husband, George Gosbee, who struggled with addiction and mental health issues. After his death, she came forward to share the family’s story so others could identify with their situation and possibly feel more comfortable in sharing their own story or in seeking help for other individuals in need. In 2019, she was an ambassador for The Big Ball, a charity event put on by Women for Men’s Health to raise funds and awareness for men’s mental health.

Dr. Xin-Min Li

Dr. Xin-Min Li is a professor and chair of the Department of Psychiatry, assistant Dean of Medical Education, and capital health chair in Mental Health Research in the faculty of medicine and dentistry at the University of Alberta. He also serves as special advisor to the dean on China Research Initiatives.

Dr. Li previously worked at the University of Manitoba, where he served as professor and Ruth Hurd Research chair at the Department of Psychiatry, medical director of the International Medical Graduate Program, assistant dean for International Medical Education, and director of the Neuroscience Research Program.

Dale McFee

Chief Dale McFee was appointed as the 23rd Police Chief for the Edmonton Police Service on February 1, 2019. Previously, he spent 26 years as a police officer in Saskatchewan, 9 years as the chief of police and 6 years as the deputy minister of Corrections and Policing for the Saskatchewan government.

Chief McFee was appointed by the Governor General of Canada to the Officer of the Order of Merit of the Police Forces. He is a recognized Governor General Leadership alumnus and was the recipient of a provincial policing leadership award for “Leadership in Multi-Agency Community Mobilization.

Dr. Nick Mitchell

Dr. Nick Mitchell is the provincial medical director, AHS Provincial Addictions and Mental Health and the senior medical director, AHS Addictions and Mental Health SCN. He is also an assistant professor at the University of Alberta department of psychiatry and a consultant-liaison psychiatrist at the University of Alberta hospital.

Dr. Mitchell received his doctor of Medicine degree from the University of Alberta in 2005 and completed his residency in psychiatry in 2010. He also received his master of science in psychiatry in 2011.

Stacey Petersen

Stacey Petersen is the executive director of Fresh Start Recovery Centre. Previously, he was the president and CEO of Simon House Recovery Centre. Under his leadership, Fresh Start has received several national awards for treatment, management and social services. Fresh Start received a Calgary Award for advocacy in 2012.

Stacey is a registered social worker with the Alberta College of Social Workers and has been involved in the field for more than 32 years, he is a person in long term recovery with as many years clean and sober. In 2011, he was the recipient of the McKillop Award honouring individuals working in human services who demonstrate a personal commitment to improving the social fabric of Calgary, he was also chosen as one of Calgary's top "40 under 40" for leadership.

Stacey has served four terms on the United Way’s Agency Advisory committee and three terms as chair of the Calgary Addiction Sector. He has also served on the Addiction Initiative Steering committee for the Norlien Foundation (now Palix), co-chair of the Services Sub-Committee of the Calgary Committee to End Homelessness (10 year plan) and currently sits on the executive of the Alberta Addiction Service Providers (AASP). He also serves on the National Recovery Advisory Committee and the Canadian Research Initiative for Substance Misuse.

Curtis Stange

Curtis Stange is the president and CEO of ATB Financial. . Before being appointed CEO, he was ATB’s first Chief Customer Officer where he led the business in ensuring the customer is at the centre of everything ATB does.

Curtis is a strong advocate for mental health and is a member of the Canadian Mental Health Association board and with the advisory board for the Unlike Minds Summit, as well a co-chair of the Children’s Wish Foundation. Curtis is a proud recipient of the Order of Athabasca University for his public service work. He is an active promoter of wellness in the workplace by helping build a community of health, active and supported team members.

Chris Wells

Chris Wells is the Assistant Deputy Minister of the Preventive Community Services Division with Alberta Community and Social Services. Chris has over 12 years of experience in various senior leadership positions within the Government of Alberta in the areas of health services delivery and front-line social-based program delivery to Albertans. Chris also enjoyed a 20-year career with the Canadian Forces, and led the coordination of health care services for the military population in Edmonton, Calgary, Wainwright, Suffield and Yellowknife. Chris is a registered nurse, and over the course of her career has remained dedicated to creating high quality, reliable systems of care to meet the needs of the population we serve in an effective and sustainable way.

Dr. Benny Xu

Dr. Benny Xu has been practicing as a third-generation Traditional Chinese Medicine Doctor and Acupuncturist since 1992. Previously, he served as a member of the Acupuncture Committee, vice-president of Alberta Traditional Chinese Medical Science and Acupuncture Association and president of the Alberta Association of Acupuncturists and Chinese Medical Doctors.

Dr. Xu also established the Alberta College of Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine in 1997, the first institution in Alberta to teach professional acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine. He received the Alberta Centennial Medal for his significant contribution in Traditional Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture.

Sally Zhao

Sally Zhao is the CEO for the Immigrant Education Society (TIES), which provides support and programs to newcomers and financially challenged Canadians and their families. She started her career at TIES in 2005, and since then, has been in different roles within the organization, including Enhanced Language Training Instruction and executive director designate. She experience teaching English as a Second Language (ESL), IELTS preparation course, TOEFL preparation course, English Language Communication, LINC and ELT courses.

She obtained her Ph.D. in ESL Testing and Assessment, a master of arts in Language and Communication from Cardiff University, a master of education in Teaching English for Specific Purposes and a bachelor of arts in English Language and Literature.

Whitney Issik

Whitney Issik was elected as the Member of the Legislative Assembly for Calgary-Glenmore on April 16, 2019. Previously, she owned and operated a small business in Calgary for almost 30 years and also worked in the telecommunications and energy industries.

Over the past 30 years, she has volunteered her time to variety of community and sports organization. She holds a bachelor of arts degree from the University of Calgary.



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