By Jensen, Randy on July 29, 2020.
As Lethbridge prepares to open its first ever Drug Treatment Court later this fall, provincial drug treatment court training liaison Grace Froese presented to city council Monday on the progress being made to get the court up and running in partnership with local organizations.
“Drug treatment courts are intended to be integrated into the community and utilize a lot of the existing services,” she explained. “Part of my role is to identify gaps in the community and how we fill those to meet the needs of the individuals involved in the drug treatment court.
“It is usually the same users of service that are involved in courts, and those who we are trying to pull into drug treatment court,” Froese added. “These are individuals who are looking at a substantial jail sentence and crimes they are committing as a result of their drug addiction.”
Froese, who is also director of the Edmonton Drug Treatment Court, has been meeting with potential local partner agencies over the past few weeks.
“I have made quite a bit of headway,” she said. “I have been meeting with multiple community agencies, and I am meeting with more. I think it is exciting for Lethbridge because you have so many people who are invested in this, and in seeing this come to their community.”
The Kenney government announced in March it would be spending $20 million over four years to establish five additional drug treatment courts in the province, including Lethbridge, on top of those already operating in Edmonton and Calgary. The court enrols participants voluntarily in the program which focuses on drug treatment and enforced abstinence under the direct supervision of local provincial court judges. Participants agree to enter the program in return for a commutation of their criminal sentences, and must meet weekly or biweekly with a judge to show their compliance.
These participants are screened thoroughly for their suitability to take part in the program before being admitted into it, Froese said, and the courts in Edmonton and Calgary have about a 70 per cent success rate.
“We know on average 70 to 73 per cent of graduates have not had new criminal convictions,” Froese confirmed.
In Edmonton the program is now funded to serve about 40 participants on a yearly basis, but the program relies on community partnerships to ensure those participants have every opportunity in their daily lives to find the supports, the counselling and the additional assists necessary to make a successful recovery, Froese further explained.
Edmonton and Calgary’s drug addiction support organizations and networks are much more established and advanced than ours are here in Lethbridge, so it remains to be seen how many the program will be able to serve in this city.
Froese said that’s part of her task in meeting with local potential partner organizations: to find those who might be the best fit for the Lethbridge Drug Treatment Court.
“That’s what we are hoping to develop in Lethbridge,” she stated. “Where the community resources already there can become involved in this. They are already dealing with many of these individuals; so now it is going to be targeted.”
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