Alberta’s government is announcing that Medicine Hat will have one of the five drug treatment courts established outside of Edmonton and Calgary as part of a four-year investment of up to $20 million toward expanding the program across the province.

The government is also providing Alberta Law Enforcement Response Teams (ALERT) with a $50 million budget increase for initiatives to disrupt and dismantle organized crime. A portion of this new funding has been used to establish a specialized team in southeastern Alberta to investigate property crime motivated by the trade in illegal drugs.

“Alberta’s government will be opening a drug treatment court in Medicine Hat to reduce crime by offering treatment to those struggling with addiction to help get their lives back on track. We are also ensuring law enforcement in southeastern Alberta has the resources it needs to disrupt and dismantle the organized crime groups that traffic and supply the drugs that take a terrible toll on our communities. This is part of our provincewide strategy – that the way to combat crime is to cut off drugs at their source and support addicts to prevent them from reoffending.”

Doug Schweitzer, Minister of Justice and Solicitor General

“Our government is well on its way to creating the most comprehensive mental health and addiction continuum of care in the country, including drug treatment courts, which have a tremendous track record of helping Albertans get on the road to recovery. I look forward to seeing the same success continued in Medicine Hat.”

Jason Luan, Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions

“A drug treatment court in Medicine Hat will keep southern Albertans safe by providing access to treatment for people struggling with addiction and helping prevent them from reoffending. At the same time, increased funding for ALERT will target criminal activity connected to, and caused by, the sale of illegal drugs.”

Drew Barnes, MLA, Cypress-Medicine Hat

“Drug treatment courts have a profound impact on Albertans with addiction, and can help break the cycle of addiction-related crime. Together with more funding for ALERT in Medicine Hat, these investments will help to tackle the rural crime wave and keep communities in southeastern Alberta safe.”

Michaela Glasgo, MLA, Brooks-Medicine Hat

Expanding drug treatment courts

Drug treatment courts help break the cycle of crime motivated by addiction by giving people who commit non-violent offences access to judicially-supervised treatment and recovery. Treatment is supplemented by frequent drug testing, incentives, sanctions and social services support.

“The fundamental purpose of sentencing is to protect society and to contribute to respect for the law by imposing sanctions which include denouncing certain behaviour and deterring certain conduct. It also includes assisting in the rehabilitation of offenders – particularly those whose offences are motivated by an addiction to drugs. A drug treatment court that serves Medicine Hat and area will assist in achieving these objectives and is a welcome addition to the courts of this region.”

Chief Judge Derek G. Redman, Provincial Court of Alberta

“The judiciary in Medicine Hat firmly supports the establishment of a drug treatment court in our city. One of the main objectives of sentencing, along with imposing just sanctions, is to protect society and to contribute to crime prevention. A major emphasis of such an objective is to aid in the rehabilitation of an accused person. A court that focuses on the root cause of a significant portion of our local crime and that endeavours to facilitate a change in lifestyle and attitude of individuals challenged by the abuse of drugs associated with it is a significant step toward benefiting not only the accused, but also the community as a whole.”

Judge Eric D. Brooks, Provincial Court of Alberta

“Drug court gave me more than just sobriety, it gave me a life worth living. 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. With the knowledge and support from the Calgary Drug Treatment Court, which still, to this day, is only a phone call away – and it’s a support system I still use – I’ve been able to mend relationships, start a beautiful family, and learn what it is to live a happy and comfortable life.”

Cameron McNulty, 2018 graduate, Calgary drug treatment court and resident of Medicine Hat

“With the recent pandemic, there has sadly been a noted increase in drug use, relapses and overdosed. The expansion of drug treatment courts to communities like Medicine Hat will not only help lead to a decrease in drug-related crimes but most importantly, will save lives.”

Grace Froese, director, provincial drug court expansion and development, Edmonton John Howard Society

New funding will be used to establish drug treatment courts in Medicine Hat, Red Deer and Lethbridge by late 2021, as well as two additional sites that are yet to be determined.

Drug treatment courts have been operating in Edmonton since 2005 and Calgary since 2007, and part of the $20 million in additional funding is also being used to double the total combined capacity of the two existing courts to about 80 participants a year.

Expanding ALERT

With a $50 million budget increase from Alberta’s government, ALERT is increasing its ability to target serious and organized crime by reinforcing existing units and developing new strategies to respond to emerging trends.

In Medicine Hat, ALERT has established the Southeast Alberta Property Crime Unit in partnership with the Medicine Hat Police Service and the RCMP. This unit is focused on the connection between street-level drug trafficking and stolen property, which is often used as a form of currency by criminals.

This joint-forces unit is made up of five investigators from the Medicine Hat Police Service, with ALERT contributing four provincially-funded positions. The team targets prolific property offenders operating in Medicine Hat and the surrounding rural areas.

“Criminals don’t respect borders. Through an integrated, collaborative policing approach, we can provide a swift and agile response to this multi-jurisdictional crime trend.”

Supt. Dwayne Lakusta, chief executive officer, ALERT

“By regionalizing our Property Crimes Unit and working closely with our partners in the RCMP, through the effective leadership of ALERT, our communities will be safer and criminals will soon learn that enforcement has no borders.”

Chief Andy McGrogan, Medicine Hat Police Service

Southeastern Alberta will also benefit from the creation of a new ALERT unit specifically targeting the supply and sale of methamphetamine and opioids.

The new unit will have two teams: one based in Edmonton and one in Calgary. ALERT will deploy the teams to help communities experiencing a sudden or severe increase in problems related to methamphetamine and opioid use, such as a spike in overdoses or drug-related crime.