LETHBRIDGE, Alta. –
Key stakeholders in the Lethbridge area will try to tackle the region’s health and social challenges.
Provincial, municipal and Indigenous leaders have formed a new intergovernmental table to address health issues and social challenges affecting members of the Blood Tribe and residents in the city.
“For the past six or seven years in Lethbridge, this has been one of the top, if not the top issue of importance for many residents … as we handle not just the mental health and addictions part, but the homeless part and all of the other parts that fall into that, from justice to health and all those systems working together,” said Nathan Neudorf, Lethbridge-East MLA.
Outreach groups are bracing for dramatic growth in Lethbridge’s vulnerable population and, as winter sets in, the homelessness crisis is expected to reach the highest level in years.
“As we’ve learned, homelessness is a complex issue that is often rooted in other challenges: mental health, addictions concerns, but also intergenerational trauma. Community is the answer,” said Jeremy Nixon, minister of seniors, community and social services.
“By working together, I’m confident that a plan will be made to address homelessness in the city and right across the province.”
The new partnership hopes to get ahead of this and other social and health concerns plaguing the region.
“It’s about bringing together all the partners in Lethbridge who touch mental health and addiction to build a comprehensive response,” said Nicholas Milliken, minister of mental health and addictions.
The table, made up of the City of Lethbridge, Blood Tribe Health Department and provincial government, is working in an effort to address the challenges facing southern Alberta.
“I think one of the key areas we are taking a look at is addiction: recovery, mental health, you know,” said Charles Weaselhead, with the Blood Tribe Department of Health.
“We hope it will be far-reaching into other files; education, child welfare, economic development.”
Alberta Health Services will also use the table to increase its response and support for those in need.
“We’ll see supports for individuals who do not have a family physician, we’ll have Indigenous physicians working with that clinic,” said Colin Zieber, senior operating officer with AHS.
“We’ll also be working on some outreach to support people. Not everyone wants to or can make it to a clinic to see a physician, nurse, nurse practitioner, so we’ll be going out and seeing people.”
At today’s inaugural meeting, Mayor Blaine Hyggen said he hopes to engage with those who help the vulnerable first-hand.
“We’re going to sit down and be able to discuss some of the different challenges we’re facing, who can be a part of those possible solutions to the challenges that face,” Hyggen said.
Earlier this year, the provincial government broke ground of a new 50-bed recovery centre east of Lethbridge. The $18-million project is expected to be open in the spring of 2023.
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