Alberta’s government is keeping communities safe and treating mental health and addiction as a health care issue with more than $5 million over three years in new funding. Provincial funding will provide recovery-oriented health supports to people in police custody and expand community-led harm reduction and recovery outreach teams in Calgary.

This funding will include:

  • $2.2 million for on-site health care practitioners and paramedics in the arrest processing unit, plus peace officers for transportation
  • $1.8 million for crisis workers in Calgary’s 911 Dispatch Centre to provide enhanced support on mental health and addiction calls
  • $1 million to expand HELP teams in downtown Calgary (previously known as DOAP teams)
  • $775,000 in one-time capital funding for facility upgrades in the arrest processing unit

“We don’t have to choose between helping people in need and keeping our communities safe. Police are essential partners in responding to the addiction crisis, helping to connect people with the support they need – whether it’s health care, social services or other essential services. This announcement reflects our fair, firm and compassionate approach to the complex social issues affecting Calgary.”

Nicholas Milliken, Minister of Mental Health and Addiction

“Our compassionate approach to recovery is ensuring that Albertans can get the help they need while also increasing safety for our communities. Our front-line police officers are in a position to help with this, and we are grateful for the work they do. With continued support from Alberta’s government, Calgary will become a city where everyone is safe and able to access the help they need.”

Jeremy Nixon, Minister of Seniors, Community and Social Services and chair, Calgary Public Safety and Community Response Task Force

“This announcement is good news for our city, and a critical lifeline for the Calgarians who will be able to access treatment from these programs. It’s the result of the teamwork and cooperation from the province, the Calgary Police Service, the city, and community organizations. We must tackle the root causes of mental health, addiction and public safety issues if we want to see real change.”

Sonya Sharp, ward 1 councillor, City of Calgary and member, Calgary Public Safety and Community Response Task Force

These initiatives are part of ongoing efforts by the Calgary Public Safety and Community Response Task Force to treat addiction and mental health as serious health care issues while improving public safety for everyone. These efforts also include doubling the number of Police and Crisis Teams (PACT) in Calgary and partnering with the Calgary Drop-In Centre to provide dynamic overdose response services and new medical detox and pre-treatment beds.

Providing addiction and mental health support in police custody

Police officers frequently respond to calls related to addiction and mental health. By offering a range of services and supports for people in police custody, Alberta’s government can better support Albertans who are struggling with complex addiction and mental health challenges while improving public safety.

People detained on a public intoxication charge in Calgary will be assessed and provided options for treatment and support in a secure environment at the CPS Spyhill Service Centre. Health professionals will offer medical support, provide counselling and connect clients with other mental health and addiction supports, including referrals to the Virtual Opioid Dependency Program, which provides same-day access to life-saving medications.

“Police services play a vital role in keeping communities safe while also treating addiction and mental health as health care issues. Everyone experiencing a mental health crisis or struggling with addiction deserves access to care, no matter who they are or where they interact with the system. By better integrating police and health services and other community partners, we can give more people in our community the chance to access treatment and support.”

Katie McLellan, deputy chief constable, Calgary Police Service

Expanding outreach teams in downtown Calgary

With concerns around mental health, addiction and social disorder rising in Calgary, there is a need to connect people who are struggling to critical services and supports.

Alberta’s government is supporting the expansion of outreach services provided by Alpha House Society, a community non-profit. The Human-centred Engagement and Liaison Partnership – or HELP teams – work closely with CPS and help connect people in need with social services and recovery-oriented supports, including access to shelters, detox, addiction treatment and supportive housing. These teams were previously referred to as Downtown Outreach Addictions Partnership (DOAP) teams.

“Our work on the front lines highlights the need for a collaborative approach as we work together to provide supports to vulnerable Calgarians. Every day, our outreach teams support people struggling with addiction, homelessness and mental health get the help they need – whether it’s a ride to a shelter or information about addiction treatment. With this funding, we will strengthen our community presence and reach more people who need our help.”

Kathy Christiansen, executive director, Calgary Alpha House Society

In December 2022, Alberta’s government established two cabinet task forces to bring community partners together to address the issues of addiction, homelessness and public safety in Calgary and Edmonton. The two Public Safety and Community Response Task Forces are responsible for implementing $187 million in provincial funding to further build out a recovery-oriented system of addiction and mental health care. The initiatives being implemented are part of a fair, firm and compassionate approach to keeping communities safe while treating addiction and mental health as health care issues.

Budget 2023 secures Alberta’s future by transforming the health care system to meet people’s needs, supporting Albertans with the high cost of living, keeping our communities safe and driving the economy with more jobs, quality education and continued diversification.

Quick facts

  • This funding is part of the $58 million for initiatives that specifically increase access to addiction treatment and support in Calgary, implemented through the Calgary Public Safety and Community Response Task Force.
  • Albertans experiencing addiction or mental health challenges can contact 211 for information on services in their community. 211 is free, confidential and available 24-7.
  • Albertans struggling with opioid addiction can contact the Virtual Opioid Dependency Program (VODP) by calling 1-844-383-7688, seven days a week, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily. VODP provides same-day access to addiction medicine specialists. There is no wait-list.