Pubdate: Mon, 16 Mar 2015
Source: Hamilton Spectator (CN ON)
Copyright: 2015 The Hamilton Spectator
Author: Carol Cowan
Page: A15


But navigating Drug Treatment Court leads to inspiring victories

As Hamilton's Drug Treatment Court passes its one year anniversary, I
want to thank Susan Clairmont at The Hamilton Spectator for her
insightful, proactive coverage of this exciting new asset within the
addiction treatment and legal communities. Susan has raised awareness
of this program, which has developed beyond where we thought it would
be after 12 months.

Her articles opened a small window into the challenges and struggles
facing those brave people who accept the challenge of Drug Treatment
Court (DTC) and the path to recovery. That path is riddled with
setbacks, challenges and disappointments. The personal victories are
inspiring - reuniting with family members, regaining employment,
education, community engagement, volunteering and personal growth that
leads to living life without substances.

Some of the lessons learned by the DTC partners have been equally
challenging and inspiring. In the hope that some of them might be
helpful for other community collaborations, particularly around
addictions and mental health, please let me share some of them:

1. Change requires thinking differently. The goal of DTC is to reduce
crime and prevent individuals from reoffending by targeting the
motivation behind drug-related crimes - treat the addiction rather
than punitively focusing on the crime. Incarceration alone f ails to
address the motivation for committing the crime. It takes committed
partners such as the justice system, police services and addiction
treatment professionals trusting each other to think differently about
justice, therapy, addiction and mental health. I am proud that
Hamilton is making this kind of forward-thinking investment in our

2. Recovery is hard work. We tend to think about recovering from
addiction as a moral issue - simply a matter of ending bad behaviour
and criminal activities. But actually it involves a great deal of
commitment, planning, compassion and collaboration to make this
process an effective one. Every participant in DTC could serve
sentences that would have been much shorter, in most cases, than going
through a rigorous recovery program. Addiction case managers work
closely with DTC participants following prescribed treatment programs
five days a week, 52 weeks a year. For the participant, their life is
under a microscope 24 hours a day with every setback and each victory
a matter of public record.

3. There are many ways to measure positive impacts of the program. The
DTC steering committee has been working for more than a year and is
just now seeing the first participant preparing to apply to graduate
and successfully exit from the program. However, along the way there
have been countless personal accomplishments that merit acclaim:
participants regaining access to children, parents rebuilding
relationships and regaining trust in adult children whom they had
given up on, men and women making restitution for wrongs by doing
community service and making financial restitution, recovering
individuals returning to work full-time or establishing their own
housing for the first time in many years. Some participants have even
started volunteering out of a desire to contribute, and a few have
returned to school. Every participant has improved or gained entirely
new life skills, from budgeting and grocery shopping, to anger
management and effective coping. While some of these s! kills may
sound minor, they are the building blocks to all future successes.

4. Lastly, if you build it they will come. Mission Services believed
in the power of this program and currently works as a committed
partner with the Drug Treatment Court. We provide consultation and
case management to DTC even though there is currently no government
funding available. We are diligently seeking a funder with vision to
help us provide this opportunity to men and women in Hamilton. Good
programming means making bold investments, and this a good investment.

Carol Cowan is associate executive director at Mission Services of 
Hamilton. She sits on the Hamilton Drug Treatment Court steering 
committee and oversees the addiction treatment component of Drug 
Treatment Court.
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