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Province promises ‘human-driven’ approach for new mental health and addictions research centre

A “human-driven” approach by a new $5-million Crown corporation dedicated to mental health and addictions will be guided by research, says the Alberta minister responsible for it.

Dan Williams, the provincial mental health and addictions minister, says ideology isn’t driving the plan for the new Canadian Centre of Recovery Excellence, or CORE.

“This organization will be designed to evaluate programs within our recovery-oriented system of care and develop recommendations where improvements can be made,” Williams said Tuesday during a media conference at the Alberta legislature.

He insists the centre will not be limited from researching treatments not supported by the province such as safe supply.

“It’s abundantly clear it’s a disaster — handing out drugs to those in the midst of an addiction in the crisis for our society is not helpful — but if there is meaningful, substantive evidence to suggest otherwise, I need to review that,” Williams said.

Health law expert Lorian Hardcastle told CTV News Edmonton she’s concerned that even though Williams says the expectation is that findings will be published, there is nothing legally obligating the new centre to do so.

“I think if the government is setting the research agenda rather than the arm’s-length body of experts, the research agenda is going to be ideological in nature,” Hardcastle said.

Decisions about what is researched and with whom is ultimately up to the organization and the minister, something that concerns Alberta’s Official Opposition.

“These allowances for the minister to be able to access information well before the public do and determine what information is collected by CORE, that’s a huge concern,” Janet Eremenko, the Alberta NDP’s mental health and addiction critic, told CTV News Edmonton.

Alberta’s former privacy commissioner is encouraged by CORE’s privacy protections but questions how people’s personal data will be used and shared.

“How much information? To how many people? Who are those people responsible to? Is CORE sharing this?” Frank Work said Tuesday.

The new centre is expected to begin operating this summer. 

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