Alberta: Drug Treatment Courts Seek to Break the Addiction Cycle

Free of Addiction

Alberta’s government has invested $20 million over four years to expand drug treatment courts across the province.

Drug treatment courts help break the pattern of paying for drugs through crime by giving non-violent offenders access to judicially supervised treatment and recovery. Treatment is supplemented by frequent drug testing, sanctions, incentives and social services support. By expanding drug treatment courts beyond Edmonton and Calgary, rural Albertans and those in mid-sized cities won’t need to leave their family and community support systems to access the kinds of treatment and recovery programs these courts offer.

Fort McMurray is now the fifth drug treatment court to open outside of Edmonton and Calgary since funding was announced in 2019. With this drug treatment court in Fort McMurray, Alberta’s government has fulfilled its promise to expand drug treatment courts throughout the province.

“By opening a drug treatment court in Fort McMurray, we are helping those with addiction and their families get their lives back on track. This drug treatment court, along with others across the province, are helping individuals to recover while also protecting public safety.”

Tyler Shandro, Minister of Justice

“Increasing access to addiction treatment for Albertans, including those involved in the criminal justice system, is another part of building a recovery-oriented system of care. Drug treatment courts help Albertans struggling with addiction by providing non-violent offenders with the support they need to pursue recovery from addiction.”

Nicholas Milliken, Minister of Mental Health and Addiction

The Fort McMurray drug treatment court opened its doors on Dec. 13 and is operated by the Pastew Place Detoxification Centre Society.

By the end of 2023, Alberta’s drug treatment courts will have increased participant capacity by 350 per cent since 2019.

“The commitment to participating in a drug treatment court is a long-term onerous journey. When the journey is complete, and the person graduates, it is quite emotional. There are tears of joy and a real sense of healing and reconciliation. I have personally been very moved by what I have seen and experienced in our specialized and therapeutic court proceedings.”

Derek G. Redman, chief judge, Provincial Court of Alberta 

“The drug treatment court, in partnership with an important organization like Pastew Place, helps people break the cycle of addiction and related crime. We thank the Government of Alberta for establishing an approach to harm and crime reduction that can have positive impacts for the entire region.”

Sandy Bowman, mayor, Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo

“It has been an honour to work in the Fort McMurray community as we prepared for the opening of the drug treatment court. The collaboration with the community agencies, RCMP, Alberta Health Services, Crown prosecutors, Alberta legal aid duty counsel, the honourable Judge Cleary and the recovery community has been outstanding, and speaks to the strength and investment Fort McMurray has in working towards a safer community. The greatest gift I have received while working with drug treatment courts over the past nine years has been to work side by side with individuals who have struggled in addiction and, as a result of drug court, now participate in a life of recovery and become contributing members of society.”

Grace Froese, community liaison drug treatment court provincial expansion, Edmonton John Howard Society 

“We at Pastew Place are excited to be part of the Fort McMurray drug treatment court program and incredibly grateful to Alberta Justice for giving us this opportunity to expand our reach in helping individuals struggling with substance use disorder. Our goal is to provide individuals with the support and treatment needed to address the underlying causes of their criminal behaviour. We are committed to helping participants achieve long-term recovery and ultimately improve public safety within Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo.”

Amber Fort, executive director, Pastew Place 

Quick facts

  • Drug treatment courts have been in Edmonton since 2005 and Calgary since 2007. Part of the $20 million in funding was used to double the total combined capacity of these two courts to 80 from 40 participants a year.
  • Both these courts have reported that 70 per cent of the graduates remain crime-free after completing the program.
  • The government has established four other drug treatment courts: Lethbridge (November 2020), Medicine Hat (January 2021), central Alberta (Red Deer, October 2021) and Grande Prairie (November 2021).
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