Complex Needs Initiative

Alberta Health Services, in partnership with the Government of Alberta, Disability Services – Persons with Developmental Disabilities (PDD), are working together to help adults with an intellectual/developmental disability and mental health concern/illness plus complex service needs receive the care they need through a coordinated and integrated support system.

It is both Alberta Health Service’s and the Alberta Government’s goal to make sure adults with dual diagnoses and complex service needs are supported.


Complex Needs Initiative Contacts

Gloria Wesley, Manager
Disabilities, Inclusion and Accessibility Division
Program Development & Innovation
Disability Services
Government of Alberta

Sandy Marcynuk, Consultant
Provincial Complex Needs Coordinator,
Provincial Planning and Capacity Management
Community, Seniors and Addiction & Mental Health 587-773-5242
Alberta Health Services

What is CSN?

What are complex service needs?

Complex Needs Definition

For the purpose of this Initiative, Adults with Complex Service Needs are defined as, individuals who are 18 or older and have a developmental/intellectual disability. They are eligible for services from the PDD program, as well as those services from other ministries which are available to all Albertans. These adults pose a significant risk, and/or are destructive, to themselves, others or property. They require intensive services and have, or have had a history of one or more of the following diagnoses or life experiences:

  • Mental health disorder
  • Terminations from other social support services
  • Specialized treatment for psychiatric and/or behavioural issues
  • Multi-system involvement (example Corrections, Health, Human Services etc.)
  • Incarceration(s) or criminal justice involvement
  • Chronic substance abuse/dependency problems

Additional links for more information

Community Support Teams

Community Support Teams (CST) combine Alberta Health Services and PDD staff who specialize in helping individuals with a dual diagnosis (intellectual/developmental disability and mental health concern/illness) and complex service needs. Each team is uniquely constructed according to each regional need and may include clinicians such as mental health therapist, psychologist, nurse, occupational therapist, behavior therapist, social worker, therapy assistant or others as determined by regional requirements. All referrals are received and forwarded to the correct team through the local/regional PDD office.

News & Newsletters

Complex Service Needs Newsletter

Other News of Interest

Education & Training


Webinars & Videoconferences

Other Learning Resources

Collection of on-line available and accessible learning resources.

2017 Learning Workshops

2017 Learning Workshops

Register below to attend a complex needs learning workshop. Each of these events are delivered face to face and are available through videoconference at various sites throughout the province – click on the Register Now tab to select a location near you..

The Complex Needs Initiative Learning Series events and topics will focus on important skills for front line service provider staff to deliver excellent services for individuals with complex service needs.

Oct 19: *Webinar* 8:30 am-11:30 am. "Communicating with health care providers"

This webinar will present how to get the most value from mental health focused clinical visits.  By using training videos (starring real people) and learning resources, on-line polls and over the airways conversation with Dr Yona Lunsky, you will develop a better understanding of a support staff role during clinical visits for a dual diagnosis population. The audience will learn what a mental health focused clinical visit should look like and more importantly, what individuals can and should expect from medical/mental health clinicians - in a family doctors office, outpatient clinic or an emergency department as well as your role in preparing for these visits.

  • Register here – This webinar format will allow you to learn and participate from your own computer.

Nov 15: Beyond the Birds & the Bees – Supporting sexuality for people with disabilities - Grande Prairie
Healthy and positive peer relationships and the connection between socialization and sexuality. Presenter: Becky Van Tassel

Email for further information regarding the Learning Series.

Past Workshops

Paper Tigers Documentary Film Screening
This documentary film demonstrates how complex trauma can affect brain development and the positive effects of trauma informed care and practices. This event has now passed however this documentary film on DVD is available to borrow.  Contact to request the material.

Cultural Competencies
Enhance and develop skills to better understand and embrace cultural diversity in the community service sector.

Trauma Informed Services for individuals with complex needs
Best practice methods from a trauma informed perspective, how to help and what to do. Presenter: Dr. Karyn Harvey

Trauma Informed Care Website

A Trauma-Informed Toolkit for Providers in the Field of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities
Research has shown that people with intellectual/developmental disabilities (IDD) are at significantly more risk of ACEs and other forms of abuse and neglect than is the general population. This toolkit, attached here for free downloading, addresses a number of areas designed to support people with IDD who may have experienced trauma.

Frontline Initiative Newsletter: Trauma Informed Care

Harm Reduction in a complex Dual Diagnosis population
Harm reduction philosophy, techniques and strategies when engaging with at-risk complex clients.

The Concurrent Disorder Toolkit website contains tools and workforce development items.

Sensory Focused Material – Becoming a Behavioural Detective workshop supplementary resources

Kim Barthel presented a workshop on September 15 to a provincial audience and shared many internet accessible resources.  A summary document contains the original powerpoint and the many resources that were shown or were referenced during the presentation.