Guelph courthouse addiction pilot program to keep going because need still exists

An addictions program at the Guelph courthouse that was supposed to end on May 31 will continue to operate three day a week.

Pilot project began in October and served more than 80 individuals struggling with addiction

Rachel Doyle has been working as an addictions counsellor at the Guelph courthouse since October. (Google Street View)

An addictions program at the Guelph courthouse that was supposed to end on May 31 will continue to operate three days a week.

Rachel Doyle, a counsellor with Stonehenge Therapeutic Community, has been meeting clients at the courthouse since October. 

She only connects with individuals who are charged with committing a crime that is related, directly or indirectly, to an addiction, and who are attending bail court.

"My caseload is fairly diverse," she said during an interview with CBC Radio's The Morning Edition host Craig Norris. "Addiction really does not discriminate. It affects people of all ages and stages, of all backgrounds and walks of life."

New to the system

But Doyle said she has seen some trends: most of her clients are male, under the age of 30, and addicted to crystal meth. 

Also, although many have been involved with the criminal justice system in the past, few have any experience with social services. 

The needs that  I've noticed far outweighs ... my ability to meet those needs.- Rachel Doyle, Stonehenge Therapeutic Community

"For a lot of the individuals that I'm working with...I'm the first person to sort of sit down and offer them individualized support," she said.

"A lot of my clients express overwhelming relief, many times in the form of tears, because they're just so thankful to have someone who can help them navigate the system and link them with resources."

Doyle said she has consulted with over 80 people during her time at the courthouse. She said she has provided one-on-one counselling to 50 of those individuals, and has also been involved in connecting her clients with services and supports in the community. 

Additional funding

Her position, which was funded through a grant from the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services, was supposed to end on May 31, but Doyle said it will continue thanks to some existing money in Stonehenge's budget. However, the program will only operate three days a week.

"This role is definitely meant to be full-time," she said. "The needs that I've noticed far outweighs...my ability to meet those needs.

"Every day I would go to bail court and there would be several people who were facing charges that were related to their addiction, and I could only pick up so many of them and put them on my caseload."

She said Stonehenge and its partners continue to look for more funding, so that the program can run every day.

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