With Funding Secured and a New Executive Director in Place, Alberta Alliance on Mental Illness & Mental Health Charts New Course

After securing a new three-year funding agreement and installing Lee Hall as its new Executive Director, the revitalized Alberta Alliance on Mental Illness & Mental Health (AAMIMH) is pushing ahead with plans to broaden its membership and expand its reach province-wide.

01 September 2019

After securing a new three-year funding agreement and installing Lee Hall as its new Executive Director, the revitalized Alberta Alliance on Mental Illness & Mental Health (AAMIMH) is pushing ahead with plans to broaden its membership and expand its reach province-wide.

"The past year has been an exciting year of rebuilding and refocusing for the Alliance. With the new grant secured we were able to stabilize our staffing and deepen our relationships with key partners. Now we're focused on transforming the Alliance into a truly province-wide organization," says Hall, who previously served as the AAMIMH's Interim Executive Director.

"Although the Alliance has traditionally been more Edmonton-focused, that's already changing. At our recent Annual General Meeting we elected a new executive slate, and we now have some great people from Red Deer and Calgary in key senior roles. We also revised our membership bylaws to broaden the scope of who is eligible to be a member, so we can capitalize on the expertise that exists across the province."

Dr. Judi Malone, the AAMIMH's President, laid out the key elements of the organization's strategic plan at its Aug. 19th Annual General Meeting.

"Our focus is to effect change in Alberta's addiction and mental health system through active participation and effective collaboration with our partners. Our strategic priorities are to pursue advocacy through engagement; broaden our collaboration and consultation; develop a more comprehensive communication strategy; and achieve organizational excellence," she says.

"The Alliance also intends to develop a broader provincial perspective on important issues in order to strengthen our advocacy role. As part of that, we will ensure that client and family perspectives are not only expressed but heard and understood, so our political representatives and partner organizations are better informed and aware of their mental health concerns."

Hall, who previously worked as a surveyor and educator for nearly two decades with Accreditation Canada, overseeing large and small-scale evaluations of health systems, public and mental health services and community organizations, says the Alliance is also working on plans for an inaugural family-focused conference on mental health.

"We're working closely with FAMI-Alberta and the University of Alberta to pull together a conference this spring, so we're really excited about that. We haven't decided on a venue for it yet but this first conference will be in Edmonton. We're hoping it will become an annual event with a provincial focus."

FAMI-Alberta (Families supporting Adults with Mental Illness in Alberta) is a grassroots group that supports family members who are dealing with serious mental health conditions, such as Schizophrenia and Bipolar Disorder.

"We're also participating in the CMHA (Canadian Mental Health Association) Conference later this year. We're not going to be a presenter but we will be an exhibitor, so that's really a big opportunity for the Alliance to put its new face forward as a revitalized, more effective organization."

As its new partnership with FAMI-Alberta indicates, a major component of the Alliance's agenda is on giving families and those with lived experience a bigger voice in advocating for policy and mental health service improvements.

With that in mind, Hall says the organization has been working in recent months on creating a new Voices strategy, giving family members and those with lived experience a more formal platform for sharing their experiences, insights and recommendations. An upcoming retreat for AAMIMH members, planned for early December, will focus on how to effectively integrate those ideas and insights into the Alliance's operational planning.

Meanwhile, the Alliance has strengthened its partnership with CASA Child, Adolescent and Family Mental Health, serving as a co-sponsor of CASA's
Dr. Roger Bland Lecture Series on Improving Child and Youth Mental Health, and helping CASA select a strong lineup of presenters for the free public events.

"This is an amazing educational series for both the public and for mental health care providers. With CASA and other partners, the Alliance is also involved with the recruitment and selection of a Research Chair for the province," she says.

"The Alliance has also reached out to Alberta Health Services and is actively involved in the Strategic Clinical Network for Mental Health and Addictions, and we also sit on the Provincial Research Hub. We were excited to be asked to contribute to the Key Performance Indicators project with AHS as they develop measurements to ensure effective service and support."

The Alliance has also worked closely with the Department of Psychiatry on a variety of initiatives, including this latest in a series of articles in the Connections newsletter, aimed at updating readers on the AAMIMH's activities and future plans.

"The opportunity to partner in the newsletter provides a broader reach and exposure for the Alliance as we continue to build our awareness and provincial linkages," says Hall. The Alliance is also working with a communications consulting firm on developing informational materials and a new website.

"In summary, the past year has laid the groundwork for the exciting work that lies ahead. Strengthening partnerships - both with our current members and by building new relationships - will only further enhance our ability to advocate for effective and responsive mental health services and support for Albertans."

"Our strength is in our ability to work together as members, reaching out to those with lived experiences. We will work to ensure our system reflects best practice and is responsive to the needs of all Albertans."