International CIty and urban Regional CoLlaborativE


I-CIRCLE is a ground-breaking initiative, supported by the International Initiative for Mental Health Leadership (IIMHL) that involves cities and urban regions within eight countries working together to problem-solve and spread innovations. The purpose of this collaborative work is to support mental health and wellbeing within urban settings and enable citizens to thrive.  

The idea was conceived when Dr. Arthur Evans, Philadelphia’s Commissioner of Behavioral Health and disability Services, presented at the IIMHL Leadership Exchange in Vancouver in September 2015. Dr Evans spoke about the City of Philadelphia’s ten years of work with its communities and city government prompted by the recognition that the major issues for our urban communities (e.g. homelessness, education, employment, criminal justice) are intertwined with behavioral health issues and that effectively addressing those behavioral health issues actually helps people in other areas of their lives.

Philadelphia took a public health approach and engaged a wide range of people outside the mental health system in order to build resilience and self-determination, recognize and address emerging behavioral health issues and ensure people with behavioral health challenges access needed supports, can work and can be independent and productive members of the community.

I-CIRCLE will bring together leaders from Philadelphia, New York, Vancouver, West Midlands England, some other US, Canadian and English cities, Dublin, Scotland, Stockholm, Sydney and Auckland.

Participants will share innovations that include:

  • taking protective action to prevent future problems (e.g. addressing the social determinants of health, ensuring a healthy start, building resilience and strengthening social connectedness)
  • enhancing early recognition and effectively responding to emerging issues (e.g. through classes and training that enable people to take the necessary action to respond and heal themselves, their families and neighbors and others they encounter at work and in their wider lives)
  • ensuring a comprehensive range of behavioral health services that is appropriate for the population served.

The focus will be on building social capital to complement the formal mental health system (e.g. through forming strategic local partnerships with groups and organizations in the local communities) and taking a public and population health approach.

In addition to the city-wide innovation in Philadelphia, participating partners will learn about a wide range of other city and urban region innovations including:

  • The Mental Health Atlas: the University of Sydney has developed a method of geo-mapping the services available in an area along with the social, cultural, economic and health characteristics of the region which has been tested in several European Countries and used to perform city comparisons
  • The City of Vancouver’s effort to eliminate homelessness
  • The Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) National Work force that have been implemented by commercial companies such as Bell Canada;
  • Headspace, an Australia innovation aimed at making it as easy as possible for a young person and their family to get the help they need for any problems affecting their wellbeing
  • Training first responders and law enforcement
  • Developments in England and Canada in population and public health approaches