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Danielle Smith reiterates Alberta's committment to addictions recovery

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Hundreds of people are participating in a national two-day conference in Calgary focusing on addiction and recovery, which also heard Alberta Premier Danielle Smith share everything her government is doing to help those struggling with mental illness and addictions.

Canada's Capital Recovery Conference will run April 3 and 4.

The conference says it's expecting 2,000 people to attend and will cover a range of topics, including Alberta's current model of care.

It begins only a day after the Alberta government announced significant changes to its addiction services.

In a major restructuring on Tuesday, Premier Danielle Smith 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.

In her address at the conference on Wednesday, Smith reiterated the announcement and highlighted the rest of the work her government has done to improve addiction and mental health recovery in Alberta.

"For decades, mental health and addiction was an afterthought at the policy table," she said. "But by dedicating our efforts and a full ministry on mental health and addiction, we are giving it the priority status it deserves."

Smith highlighted Alberta's committment to same-day services through 211, additional funding for treatment spaces, improving access to medication-based treatment, the completion of a number of recovery communities and supports for Alberta's Indigenous communities.

"Since 2021, deaths from alcohol are down 60 per cent, deaths from methamphetamine are down 41 per cent, deaths from cocaine are down 61 per cent," Smith said, adding that deaths from other drugs are also down.

Smith also said a number of other dignitaries will be attending the conference, in the hopes of learning more from Alberta's example.

"It is the largest recovery capital conference that you've ever had," Smith said.

"You're going to have to find a larger venue next year."

The Alberta model is recovery-focused — and the province insists it's working.

But when you look at total drug poisonings, more than 1,800 Albertans died in the first 10 months of 2023, putting the province on track for a record year of overdose deaths once the final two months are counted.

Critics like the Health Sciences Association of Alberta (HSAA), a union which represents health workers like paramedics, say Alberta's abstinence-only policy has failed, and the province must switch to an evidence-based policy directed by health workers.

The HSAA is attending the conference and will share more information this week on a call on the UCP government to change its view on addiction services.

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