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Saskatchewan partners with Alberta and Ontario in struggle with mental illness and addiction

Three provinces are coming together to fight the battle against mental illness and addictions.

The main goal of the partnership of Saskatchewan, Alberta, and Ontario is to create recovery care plans. It will be an information-sharing partnership as they move to a recovery-oriented system of care.

“Saskatchewan is focused on helping people overcome addictions and live healthy, safe lives,” Tim McLeod, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, Seniors and Rural and Remote Health, Saskatchewan said.

“By helping people overcome addictions, we can save lives, heal families and strengthen our communities.”

Over the last two days, ministers from Alberta, Sask., and Ontario met in Calgary for the eighth annual Recovery Capital Conference of Canada.

Alberta’s recovery model will act as the base for the new partnership, meant to break down barriers and increase access to recovery services.

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“We are eager to share the Alberta Recovery Model because we believe it is the most dignified, comprehensive and compassionate approach in any jurisdiction across Canada to help people overcome their mental health challenges and recover from the deadly disease of addiction,” Alberta Minister of Mental Health and Addiction, Dan Williams, said.

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Earlier this week, Alberta unveiled two new agencies to deliver mental health and addiction services.

Recovery Alberta will be tasked with delivering mental health and addiction services currently covered by Alberta Health Services. The province is also establishing a new Crown corporation called the Canadian Centre of Recovery Excellence.

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Saskatchewan has not made the same announcement but will be working with Alberta and Ontario to develop new plans to treat mental health and addiction.

“The path to recovery is a lifelong journey for individuals and so when individuals are walking that path, they may cross borders to the neighbouring provinces and if we have a unified approach where we’re all focused on recovery orientated systems of care and recovery model, I think that is better serving the people using the systems,” McLeod said.

The partnership comes after Saskatchewan shifted its approach to handling addictions, by eliminating funding for harm reduction services to provide drug tools.

According to the Saskatchewan coroner’s office’s latest report on drug toxicity deaths, since the start of 2024 there have been 26 deaths and 87 suspected deaths due to drug toxicity.

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The government faced heavy backlash when it decided to no longer provide drug tools to harm reduction services.

McLeod said this new approach to battle addictions through wrap-around recovery services will focus on treating the person and not the addiction.

“We need to identify what that specific individual needs and I would say that what they need is not more drugs,” he said. “What they need are supports that will address the underlying trauma and they need the supports that will get them on a path to recovery.”

McLeod also said the provinces naloxone and overdose outreach programs will help bring people to wrap-around services, and that the collaboration of ideas and initiatives with Alberta and Ontario will be more beneficial in treating people across all provinces.

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