Community advocate plays major role in helping City move Community Action on Mental Health and Addiction forward
Karen Gosbee and her three children lost their husband and father when George Gosbee died by suicide.
“He himself believed that perception was everything, he wanted to come across completely composed and very successful,” Karen Gosbee said of George, a Calgary businessman and entrepreneur. “When you sat down and had a chance to talk one-on-one with him, he really had this ability to bring you into his, sort of… magnetic draw.”
It came as a shock to those that knew him. The dichotomy of his public appearance was different from his private life at home, and only the Gosbee family knew of his addiction and mental health issues.
Karen had often felt hopeless and struggled to navigate the resources available to support George Gosbee. After his death, she came forward to share the family’s story so others could identify with their situation and possibly feel more comfortable in sharing their own story or in seeking help for other individuals in need.
Karen Gosbee approached Mayor Nenshi with a plea to help align resources for the community: “All of these resources are out there, and they need to be elevated, it needs to be very clear… let’s do this for Calgary.”
As it turned out, Mayor Nenshi was already considering a proposal to bring to Council, which later approved $25 million over the next five years to support improving access to mental health and addiction services.
“Stories like the Gosbees’ are stories about Calgarians; that is why we are developing the Community Action on Mental Health and Addiction,” said Mayor Nenshi. “This strategy will help us better understand how to create hope, strengthen support for people, families and communities living with mental health issues and addictions, in order to help them improve their quality of life.”
Stories like the Gosbees’ are stories about Calgarians; that is why we are developing the Community Action on Mental Health and Addiction. This strategy will help us better understand how to create hope, strengthen support for people, families and communities living with mental health issues and addictions, in order to help them improve their quality of life.
Mayor Nenshi is one of 40 mayors from around the world selected to take part in an executive leadership training program for 2018-19. The Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative is a collaboration among Harvard Kennedy School, Harvard Business School, and Bloomberg Philanthropies. Leveraging these resources to tackle the mental health and addiction issues Calgary is experiencing is critical to creating a community action plan.
Karen Gosbee’s role as a community advocate has been elevated as part of a local team of leaders taking part in the Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative. The group includes the acting director of Calgary Neighbourhoods, Melanie Hulsker, Scott Boyd from the Calgary Police Service, Lori Roe and Janet Chafe of Alberta Health Services, Yared Belayneh of the United Way of Calgary & Area, and Diana Krecsy of Calgary Homeless Foundation. In January, all eight representatives travelled to New York City to participate in a program facilitated by experts from the Harvard-Bloomberg City Leadership Initiative. The executive training comes without any cost to The City.
“This has been an incredible partnership. This initiative believes in the power of cities to take action in support of addressing some of our toughest challenges,” said Mayor Nenshi. “We are benefitting from extraordinary access to research, expertise and mentorship worth hundreds of thousands and we are getting it for free.”
This work puts Calgary on the map globally as a strategy leader in response to mental health, addiction and social disorder; with a cross-boundary team coming together building a coalition to make progress on a crucial community issue. The team members moved this initiative forward – and will evaluate how the group, through the program, learned from Harvard professors and from each other, and will pull together each representative’s assets to collectively create change for Calgary.
While Calgary’s participation in the Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative: Cross Sector Collaboration program formally wrapped this month, the lessons learned and collaborative relationships developed in the program have and will continue to contribute to the development of the Community Action on Mental Health and Addiction Strategy.
The Community Action on Mental Health and Addiction Strategy is going to the Standing Policy Committee on June 12 with initial policy directions, strategic action framework, targets and measures. Developing information and email signup can be found at Calgary.ca/communityaction.