Medicine Hat to open 1 of 5 new drug treatment courts in Alberta

Sep 16, 2020

Alberta Justice Minister Doug Schweitzer, revealed in early August that the government plans to open a drug treatment court in Medicine Hat with the goal of reducing crime by providing treatment to individuals struggling with addiction.

A drug treatment court provides an alternative to prison for nonviolent offenders and is aimed to rehabilitate them, as opposed to re-incarceration. According to Schweitzer, the treatment court will be part of a comprehensive program under judicial supervision and will provide treatments, as well as frequent drug testing, incentives, sanctions and social services.

“This is part of our province-wide strategy — that the way to combat crime is to cut off drugs at their source and support addicts to prevent them from reoffending,” said Schweitzer in a press release.

The Alberta government has previously announced its plan to fund new drug treatment courts in other communities with a budget of approximately $20 million over four years. The first drug treatment court is planned to be established in Lethbridge, with the second court announced to be set up in Red Deer.

So far, drug treatments courts have been established in Edmonton and Calgary and under the current government plan, they will have their combined capacity doubled to about 80 participants per year.

“Drug court gave me more than just sobriety, it gave me a life worth living,” said Cameron McNulty, who has completed a drug court program in Calgary, in his interview with CBC News. “My first years as an adult were lived within a vicious cycle of overdoses, near-death experiences, prison sentences, as well as lost and damaged relationships with family and friends.”

According to McNulty, the Calgary Drug Treatment Court provided him the essential support he required. “I’ve been able to mend relationships, start a beautiful family and learn what it is to live a happy and comfortable life,” he said.

In addition, the Alberta government is also increasing the budget of the Alberta Law Enforcement Response Teams (ALERT) with a $50-million increase for initiatives to fight organized crime. Moreover, the province also plans to establish drug treatment courts in two other communities by 2021.