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Calgary's Mental Health and Addictions Strategy Strategy evaluation

In 2018, City Council passed a Notice of Motion directing Administration to convene and develop a mental health and addiction strategy for Calgary. In 2021, Council approved Calgary’s Mental Health and Addiction Community Strategy and Action Plan 2021-2023, a community-led strategy designed to create hope and strengthen support for people, families, and communities in Calgary.

Focus of evaluation


The demographics and evaluation team at The City evaluated the implementation of the strategy. The team reviewed key outcomes achieved to advance the strategy between July 2018 and June 2023.

They used outcome harvesting methodology for the evaluation to capture complex and dynamic systems change work and difficult-to-monitor development processes. The evaluation harvested 32 outcomes from the strategy. Individuals with direct knowledge of strategy outcomes and initiatives in the substantiation process were also engaged to verify and provide additional input. 

Two main questions guided the evaluation:

  • What outcomes of the strategy and action plan have been achieved to date?
  • What systems and processes been implemented effectively? 

Key evaluation findings over the five-year period:


  • The $42 million in investments to enhance 231 community programs and services has had a positive impact in addressing mental health and addiction-related issues affecting Calgarians.
  • Community programs and services were effectively cross promoted through more than 1,000 partnerships within the funded organizations and more than 30 meetings attended by strategy partners.
  • Existing committees, task forces, and groups clearly identified system gaps and opportunities.
  • Eighteen cross-sector collaborative initiatives advanced to significantly break down system silos.
  • The governance structure effectively set the groundwork for collaboration.
  • Mental health and addiction funding processes improved significantly since 2018.
  • Implementation processes incorporated inclusive practice principles. 

Calgary’s Mental Health and Addiction Strategy and Action Plan Evaluation


The leadership group, implementation team members, funded community organizations, and The City all identified lessons learned in the first three years of implementation. These learnings helped inform the following recommendations:

  • Recommendation 1: Continue to invest in community mental health and addiction supports as the frequency, complexity, and rapidly changing mental health needs of Calgarians are increasing. This includes both programmatic and cross-sector collaborative investments.
  • Recommendation 2: Define strategic goals and scope and expand strategy partnerships. The nine actions with sub-actions are too broad and challenging for strategy partners to address.
  • Recommendation 3: The governance structure was effective in the early stages of strategy development and implementation, but now group roles and responsibilities need further refinement and clarification. Lived-experience representation is missing from strategy groups. Grassroots, ethnocultural, and racialized organizations also need ways to participate beyond program and service delivery.
  • Recommendation 4: Develop and implement ongoing data collection at the local level to provide better shared measurements so strategy partners can understand Calgarians’ mental health needs in more detail and whether Calgarians are accessing the right supports at the right times.

Conclusion


This evaluation highlights the strategy outcomes achieved to date and the extent to which the systems and processes have been implemented effectively. Systems change work takes time. As the mental health and addiction needs of Calgarians continue to be a priority, this evaluation should help identify areas of success and areas needing more focus. With Council and partners’ support, this iterative strategy will continue to refine its goals to help improve the lives of Calgarians.

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