Thursday, February 17, 2011

Drug Court

I was grateful to hear a terrific CBC radio program coming to work this morning (Feb. 17, 830 am, CBC news Feb. 14,2011). The interviewer was talking to Calgary Chief of Police, Rick Hanson. Rick Hanson was proposing a locked treatment facility dedicated to treatment of addiction. He described a horrid situation where a young addict had been put in general population only to be tortured to death by psychopaths. He was expressing the cries of family members that something more be done for their loved ones who were more 'sick' than 'bad'.  He stated that roughly 30 to 50% of people in the legal system were there for addiction. He differentiated their mental health needs and their minor assaults and break and entry to get money to supply their addictions as distinctly different from the criminals he felt needed to be in jails, the gang members and the sociopaths. He felt that too much police time was misdirected in taking care of a mental health problem.
The interviewer went on to speak to Justice Paul Bentley the first judge to sit on the Toronto Drug Court .  He said that the cost of housing a prisoner in a federal jail was $88,000, a provincial jail as $57,000 and treatment via drug court as only $12,000. Further his drug court was getting a 51% success.  He spoke highly of the work of the John Howard Society in providing monitored safe and clean housing for those in recovery.
Locally, in Vancouver I treat people at this street clinic who have been referred by the Vancouver drug court.  Here criminals are given the options either to go to jail or accept the diversion into supervised treatment.
Drug court and mandated supervised treatment have long been known to be highly effective. Even when judges required people to go to AA there was a much higher success rate than those whose drinking and driving, for instance was treated only as an anti social act rather than as the product of the mental illness.
I am highly impressed with the Vancouver drug court. The Judges here and the counselors that I interact with are at the very cutting edge of addressing the increasing societal problem of addiction.  I was delighted by this CBC newscast and thoroughly applaud the efforts of CBC, Rick Hanson and Judge Bentley in addressing the problem of crime and addiction.

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