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Alberta announces Crown corporation to gather research on addiction recovery

The Alberta government is creating a Crown corporation to gather research to bolster addiction-recovery efforts as part of its broader restructuring of the health system.
Alberta Premier Danielle Smith and Minister of Mental Health and Addiction Dan Williams stand together during the swearing in of her cabinet in Edmonton on Friday, June 9, 2023. Alberta's government is setting up a Crown corporation to gather research to bolster the province's addiction recovery efforts. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

The Alberta government is creating a Crown corporation to gather research to bolster addiction-recovery efforts as part of its broader restructuring of the health system.

The Canadian Centre of Recovery Excellence, or CoRE, is expected to be up and running by the summer, with an initial annual budget of $5 million.

"We will do what it takes to deliver the best care possible," Premier Danielle Smith, accompanied by Mental Health and Addiction Minister Dan Williams and other officials, told a news conference in Calgary on Tuesday.

Kym Kaufmann, the incoming CEO of CoRE, said the centre will work with Williams' ministry on publicly disclosingits data.

"CoRE will evaluate what works and what does not work when it comes to helping individuals with addiction and mental health concerns," Kaufmann, a former Manitoba deputy minister, told reporters.

Kaufmann said the aim is to help Alberta, and other jurisdictions, strengthen policies focusing on treatment and recovery. 

Smith's United Conservative government has advocated investment in treatment over some harm-reduction measures, such as supervised consumption services.

The province has long planned to release data on the outcomes of its recovery programs, but Williams said there continues to be a delay due to privacy concerns.

Smith said there will be legislation this spring to create CoRE and to create a new organization dubbed Recovery Alberta.

Recovery Alberta will take over the addiction file from the province's current health provider, Alberta Health Services.

Smith said there will be no service disruptions as staff and services are moved under the new agency.

Kerry Bales, the incoming CEO of Recovery Alberta, said there will be no changes to employee pay, benefits or union membership. The agency will report to Williams' ministry and operate with a $1.1-billion budget.

The announcement comes as the government works to expand its inventory of treatment and recovery facilities.

So far, the province has built two new such centres and has another nine in the planning or construction stage.

Janet Eremenko, the Opposition NDP mental health and addiction critic, said creating Recovery Alberta will do nothing to halt drug poisoning deaths that have climbed to record numbers.

In a news release, Eremenko said the plan abandons established organizations that have been successfully delivering wraparound treatment services. 

"Rather than funding these organizations, the UCP is moving forward with opaque, private contracts," said Eremenko.

"This undermines the trust and transparency that Albertans require, particularly in a ministry dedicated to the sensitive care of vulnerable individuals."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 2, 2024.

Lisa Johnson, The Canadian Press

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