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Drug treatment program kicks off in region

Fort McMurray Court House. MYMCMURRAY/Phil Wood.

The Alberta government is assisting our region as it looks to support addiction treatment and recovery.

Fort McMurray is home to the province’s newest Drug Treatment Court.

In a release, Justice Minister Tyler Shandro said the government is 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.”

Pastew Place Detoxification Centre Society began operating the court on Dec. 13, 2022.

“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.” Said Amber Fort, Executive Director of Pastew Place. “Our goal is to provide individuals with the support and treatment needed to address the underlying causes of their criminal behaviour.”

Fort said they’re committed to helping participants achieve long-term recovery and ultimately improve public safety within Wood Buffalo.

Fort McMurray’s drug treatment court is the fifth to open outside of Calgary and Edmonton since 2019.

This allows community members to stay local without needing to leave the region for treatment.

How they work

To date, $20-million over four years went into expanding the courts to rural Alberta.

Between 2020 and 2021, the province helped establish drug treatment courts in Lethbridge, Medicine Hat, Red Deer, and Grande Prairie.

Minister of Mental Health and Addiction Nicholas Milliken said courts provide non-violent offenders with the support they need to pursue recovery from addiction.

“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.”

Treatment includes frequent drug testing, incentives, sanctions, and social service support.

Grace Froese with Edmonton John Howard Society said it’s an honour to work in Fort McMurray in opening 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.”

Froese also spoke about her main takeaway from working as community liaison in expanding drug treatment.

“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.”

Mayor Sandy Bowman said this partnership between Alberta Justice and Pastew Place helps to break the cycle of addiction and 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.”

According to government data, 70 per cent of graduates from drug treatment courts remain crime-free upon completion of the program.

By the end of 2023, drug treatment courts will have increased participant capacity by 350 per cent since funding began in 2019.