Mental Health Task Force launched

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A Mental Health Task Force (MHTF) has been formed to look at the issues and needs surrounding mental health care in Airdrie and the surrounding area.

According to MHTF Chair Pat Cashion, the task force brings together a number of different agencies and individuals with the goal of identifying what resources are needed in Airdrie and area.

“The task force is trying to suss out what people do and don’t understand about availability of mental health resources and how one might try to increase that awareness and increase awareness wherever possible,” he said.

“A number of citizens have come forward…(indicating) more resources, more knowledge on the part of a whole bunch of people would have helped them get through situations ranging from depression to suicide of a child and everything in between.”

The MHTF is co-sponsored by the Airdrie and Area Health Co-operative and the Thumbs Up Foundation.

“This has been a vision of Thumbs Up, almost from inception, because we think it’s not the only way but a strong first step to bringing down silos and barriers and bringing the community together in a different way,” said Kim Titus, Thumbs Up founder.

“I know there’s been lots of good work and lots of good teamwork from some of the agencies, but the MHTF has a broader scope, potentially, and more depth.”

The MHTF is comprised of representatives from 10 area agencies that support mental health, including the Highland Primary Care Network, Rocky View Schools, Alberta Health Services, Airdrie RCMP, Airdrie and District Victims Assistance Society, Community Links and the City of Airdrie.

A family physician, a psychiatrist, two citizens at large and a representative from Airdrie’s business community will also sit on the task force.

Cashion said public consultation is an important part of what the task force will do in the coming months. A survey, focus groups and other chances to provide input are planned. The goal is to compile a list of recommendations, which Cashion said could then be presented to various levels of government and providers of mental health services.

Titus said the task force was hoping to have the recommendations ready by June, but conceded that might be a lofty goal given the amount of work to be done by the volunteer group.

Dr. David Swann, public health physician, MLA for Calgary Mountain View and leader of the Alberta Liberal Party, is also sitting on the task force. Titus said Swann chaired a similar task force provincially, which produced the Valuing Mental Health Report in 2015.

In a press release, Swann said he is pleased to be part of this important initiative.

“I applaud this very creative and professional community-led approach from caregivers and volunteers working to integrate services and better focus on individuals and their families,” he said.

Cashion said the fact Airdrie is leading this initiative does not surprise him.

“If there’s ever a community that I’ve experienced where a group of people can get together and usually get something worthwhile done, it’s Airdrie,” he said.

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