True Awards

2021 nominations now open! The awards honour successful efforts to reduce stigma, encourage recovery and strengthen programs and services in the area of mental health and addiction. People across Alberta are finding inspiring ways to address the mental health and addiction challenges faced by individuals and society as a whole. Help us celebrate their accomplishments.

Celebrating 10 years of True Awards!


True Service

Police & Crisis Response Teams (PACT, IC-PACT, & R-PACT Teams) 

Edmonton and Rural Capital Region 

Established through funding from the Safer Communities Initiative in 2003, this is a partnership between AHS and Police to assist people with mental illness and addictions who are in crisis. 


True Leadership 

Pathways to Housing (Calgary) – An initiative that provides long-term housing to and community supports to people who are suffering from major mental illnesses and are experiencing homelessness. 


True Imagination 

David Hill & Dr. Gerald McDougall (Calgary & Edmonton) – David and Gerald were nominated separately but were part of the same initiative; the Court Diversion Program, which is aimed at finding alternatives to incarceration for individuals with metal illness. 


True Compassion 

Dr. Gary Hnatko (Edmonton) – Medical Director of CASA . Dr Hnatko has sat on over 25 committees related to mental health, published many articles and book chapters , and is a dedicated educator in the world of mental health and addiction. 

True Grit

Elizabeth Anderson (Calgary) – A person living with schizophrenia, Elizabeth has made profound contributions to public education, advocacy, and stigma reduction. She has made living well with mental illness an art. Literally. In 1998, she performed in a play Starry Starry Night as part on an anti-stigma campaign. She returned to university and completed a BA in Communications and Culture in 2010. She then wrote and published a book, Being Mentally Healthy (in Spite of Mental Illness). She has also started her on company, Being Mentally Healthy. 


True Grit

Jeffery Chalifoux, Edmonton

Jeffrey Chalifoux has an amazing life story of overcoming substance abuse, addiction and incarceration to become an admired and respected student leader at Norquest College and a volunteer in the broader community.  After entering the Edmonton Drug Treatment and Community Restoration Court Program in 2009, Jeff enrolled at NorQuest College to pursue studies to become a social worker.  He became a student councillor and today serves as an RBC NorQuest College Student Ambassador. Along with achieving academic success, Jeff started an Aboriginal student peer support group to assist fellow aboriginal students to stay in school. He also formalized a study group for social work students which resulted in increased grades for participants.  He also completed his Advanced Addiction Counsellor Training Certification.  In 2012, Jeff joined the Don Wheaton Family YMCA staff as a lifeguard and swimming instructor.  He frequently shares his story of recovery with students and other young people at conferences and other venues.


True Compassion

Jillian Dacyk. Edmonton

Jillian is the secretary for the Canadian Mental Health Association, Alberta Division.  In her 30 years of service to CMHA she has consistently lived the values of her organization above and beyond her daily job requirements, which include providing support to the Alberta Alliance on Mental Health and Mental Illness.   Although the CMHA Alberta division phone number is not a help-line, Jillian has nevertheless assisted thousands of individuals over the years to find the right supports and services.  She does more than refer people; she listens, understands and responds with compassion and insight. And she does all of this while competently carrying out her administrative support duties.


True Imagination

Edmonton Drug Treatment and Community Restoration Court

The Edmonton Drug Treatment and Community Restoration Court was established in December 2005 to provide an innovative sentencing alternative for offenders with addictions and mental illness.  Clients in the program are placed under close supervision and provided comprehensive support for their housing, medical, therapeutic and other social needs.  To date, the program has more than 90 graduates.  It has been so successful in rehabilitating clients, including chronic cocaine, opiate and crystal meth addicts, it has become the only one in Canada with a waiting list.  Supporters of this nomination affirmed the program has transformed the attitudes of judges, crown prosecutors, and defence lawyers toward offenders with addictions and mental health problems.

True Leadership

Dr. Robbie Babins-Wagner. Calgary

For the past 32 years, Dr.  Babins-Wagner has been innovating and impacting mental health services and programs in Alberta and working to reduce stigma. She is well-respected for her leadership role in community social initiatives; she conducts research, teaches, participates and presents in professional conferences and workshops and develops programs through her position as CEO of the Calgary Counselling Centre.  The CCC provides quality, affordable mental health counselling services to individuals, children and families.  It has no waitlist and a sliding fee scale.   Dr. Babins-Wagner is the lead force behind National Depression Screening Day, a joint annual initiative with the Calgary Chamber of Commerce.  In 2013, she extended CCC services to High River in response to the flood.  In 2006 the Calgary Herald named Robbie as one of Calgary’s 13 new pioneers, people expected to shape the city’s future.  Her nomination had strong support from the Dean of social work at the U of C, the director of community investments at United Way Calgary, and the president and CEO of the Calgary Chamber of Commerce.


True Service

The Alberta Mental Health Patient Advocate Office - Located in Edmonton, serving all Alberta.

Established 25 years ago, the Mental Health Patient Advocate and staff work to ensure patients involuntarily detained in mental health facilities or under community treatment orders, receive equal protection and benefit of the law.  The core functions of the office are to investigate and resolve patient complaints and concerns and to help Albertans understand and exercise their rights under the Mental Health Act. The Office helps to break down the stigma and social isolation people may experience when diagnosed with a mental illness.   In 2013/14, the Mental Health Advocate Office opened 2,050 new files, handled by a small, but effective team of three staff, including Carol Robertson Baker, who became Alberta’s fifth Mental Health Patient Advocate in 2013.  In addition to its legislated role, the Advocate had provided advice and input to policy and law makers.  As well, the Advocate participates in conferences, roundtable discussions and other initiatives that reach out to all members of the mental health community.


True Compassion

2020 Recipient: Corey Wyness 


Corey has been working with queer and trans youth for over 30 years across three countries. He is currently the project coordinator for the Community Health Empowerment Well (CHEW) project that runs through the University of Alberta and the Institute for sexual minority studies and services. The CHEW project provide support and sanctuary for 2SLGBTQ+ youth who are facing barriers related to mental illness, addiction, and poverty.


Corey is an unsung hero who is always working for youth, with historically very little recognition, while providing a way for them to find resilience and hope. Corey excels at meeting youth where they are at on their journey, and has created a space in Edmonton that is safe and inclusive.


The CHEW project is more than a youth drop in center; it provides a sense of family for homeless 2SLGBTQ+ youth. 


Learn more: 

True Imagination
2020 Recipient: Innovations in Practice Conference 2019


Approximately 450 participants gathered in Edmonton on October 9 & 10, 2019 to hear renowned author, educator and speaker Dr. Temple Grandin and Dr. Ross Greene among other experts, address the mental health challenges of those living with Developmental Disabilities, Intellectual Disabilities and Autism Spectrum Disorder in Children and Adults.    This event coincided with World Mental Health Day.  The Innovations in Practice 2019 Conference – held at the Edmonton Inn & Conference Centre – attracted an enthusiastic and engaged crowd of Psychiatrists, General Practitioners, frontline Addiction and Mental Health clinicians, Teachers, support workers, families and individuals with lived experiences from across Canada. “This is one of the biggest conferences in the country in the field of Developmental Disabilities and mental health. It was a wonderful forum to learn about the most innovative practices in the field and it provided a great opportunity for people to network with their peers,” said Conference Chair Dr. Yogesh Thakker, a Clinical Lecturer in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Alberta (U of A) who also serves as Lead Psychiatrist for Alberta Health Services’ (AHS’s) Community Outreach Assessment and Support Team (COAST). 


The conference committee was brought together for their shared expertise, compassion and desire to improve the understanding of this population’s mental health concerns.  Other members of the Innovations in Practice Conference organizing committee included Mr. Scott Phillips, Assistant Chair, Department of Psychiatry, University of Alberta (U of A); Conference Co-Chair Dr. Pierre Chue, Professor, Department of Psychiatry, U of A; Dr. Keith Goulden, Associate Professor, Department of Pediatrics, U of A; Mr. Clayton Kleparchuk, Program Manager, Tertiary & Residential Services, Alberta Hospital Edmonton; Ms. Crystal Grunling, Conference Coordinator; Ms. Jennifer Sadowski, Clinical Supervisor, COAST; and Ms. Donna Brothers-Palfrey, Behavioural Consultant, COAST. 

Lieutenant Governor's Circle On Mental Health And Addiction

C/O Sol Rolingher

Duncan Craig LLP

2800 Scotia Place, 10060 Jasper Ave

Edmonton, Alberta, T5J 3V9



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