Pubdate: Tue, 25 Aug 2015
Source: Edmonton Journal (CN AB)
Copyright: 2015 The Edmonton Journal
Author: Paige Parsons
Page: A3


Service wins award for lengthy effort helping addicted offenders

Months after losing a major chunk of its funding and half of its
staff, the Edmonton Drug Treatment Court Service is being honoured for
its decade-long effort helping drug-addicted offenders.

The program is the recipient of the 2015 "True Imagination" award from
the Lieutenant-governor's Circle on Mental Health and Addiction. It
was chosen for its contributions creating supports for and advancing
understanding of mental illness and addiction.

The drug treatment court started in December 2005 as a way to deal
with offenders whose crimes were linked to drug addiction.

The intensive program - it takes participants between one to two years
to graduate - includes random drug testing, community service work and
intensive therapy sessions.

Executive director Grace Froese said the award was especially welcome
given the total restructuring that's been required because of the cuts.

"It was great because we've been through a rough year," Froese

In early January, the program learned funding was being cut and five
of the staff who work through the John Howard Society received
termination notices.

Froese said federal funding has since been restored, but only to 50
per cent of what it was. She said she wrote to provincial Justice
Minister Kathleen Ganley asking for funding and is optimistic about
the response.

"They have advised us it is being reviewed," she said.

She said in the months following the cuts, services for existing
clients were maintained through the help of Alberta Health Services
and other community organizations. But now that a new intake of
clients is underway, Froese said less than half the number are being
accepted as before. She said it's a shame because of the amazing
difference she sees in people who start the program "entrenched in
drug addiction and struggling" and leave one or two years later with
their lives back on track.

Despite the funding and staff struggles, the program will continue
moving ahead. On Wednesday, a participant will graduate for the first
time since the cuts came into effect. The graduation happens in
provincial court and includes statements about what the graduate has
accomplished from the Crown, Froese, family and other supporters and
the participant.
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