Skip to content

Red Deer Mayor advocates for new way of dealing with people with addictions, mental illness

Ken Johnston will ask council to endorse a recovery-based approach
Red Deer Mayor Ken Johnston wants city council to endorse a recovery-based model for dealing with addictions and mental illness. (Advocate file photo).

Mayor Ken Johnston would like to apply a new “recovery based” approach to Red Deer’s opioid problem.

On Tuesday, Johnston will ask city council to adopt a new model for helping people with addictions and mental illness. At the council meeting, he will introduce a Notice of Motion titled Building Red Deer as a Recovery Community.

It asks council members to adopt an Alberta government report, Towards an Alberta Model of Wellness as a guideline. This approach views recovery as an on-going personal journey, instead of living up to imposed outcomes.

With a couple of addictions treatment centres about to start operating in the city and the Red Deer drug court now working, Johnston believes the timing is right to look at other, better ways of dealing with people with addictions.

Some treatment facilities, for example, expect abstinence for a period before they will help an individual, he said. But this expectation can seem insurmountable to someone in the grips of addiction.

Johnston believes the recovery community should try to meet someone in the place where they are, instead of expecting them to meet various external conditions.

A person’s recovery goal is individually defined — and does not necessarily have to include abstinence.

It involves a person “living a satisfying, hopeful and contributing life, even when they may be experiencing ongoing symptoms of mental illness or substance use,” according to a report on the Alberta Health Services website.

The recovery model is defined by AHS as helping people regain responsibility and control of their own lives. Health care providers meet people wherever they are on the recovery continuum and help them reach their chosen recovery goals and an enhanced quality of life.

Red Deer city council has often spoke of the wrap-around service model for the permanent homeless shelter when it’s built. Housing and mental health supports and overdose prevention services would be among those that would be located at or near the shelter for the benefit of clients.

But Johnston said his notice of motion is about more than wrap-around services at the shelter.

He would like the city to work with school systems, employers, social networks, and agencies to create an operating model of recovery-based care for people in this city. “We need to bring addictions and recovery out of the shadows. The opportunity is there” to remove the stigma and help people by focusing on their individual needs, he added.

According to Johnston’s Notice of Motion, the city should partner with community agencies and “help Red Deerians embrace recovery across the health and wellness continuum of care, in the pursuit of individual and community health, safety and well-being.”

Council is expected to discuss it this month.

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Lana Michelin

About the Author: Lana Michelin

Lana Michelin has been a reporter for the Red Deer Advocate since moving to the city in 1991.
Read more