Kitchener-Waterloo

Addiction support worker returns to Guelph and Wellington courtrooms

A pilot program that puts an addiction support counsellor in bail courts is now a full-time program in Guelph and Wellington County courtrooms.
A program in Guelph and Wellington courthouses will see a support worker help people who face charges linked to substance use and addictions. (Carmen Ponciano/ CBC)

A pilot program that puts an addiction support counsellor in bail courts is now a full-time program in Guelph and Wellington County courtrooms.

The addiction court support program operated as a pilot project between 2015 and 2017 and was revived last week. 

The pilot had to be stopped after funding ran out, but Guelph Mayor Cam Guthrie put together a task force earlier this year looking at the drug and homelessness issues facing the city, and the program was raised as one that was beneficial for the entire community.

Kerry Manthenga, clinical director of community services for Guelph's Stonehenge Therapeutic Community, said their own research also showed big benefits.

They did an evaluation in 2017 and talked to as many people as they could find that had used the program.

"100 per cent of those people reported that being connected to the program really helped them in making safer choices in relation to their substance use," she said.

Decreased police interaction

As part of the program, a support worker attends bail court and works with people whose arrest has a direct link to substance use.

The worker provides initial support, then an assessment and referral to treatment and support resources, and they also help the person comply with bail requirements.

"There need to be consequences for behaviour that is damaging and dangerous to the community, but if those consequences don't also include the opportunity to treat the issues that are underlying the addiction, then what you have is someone who has been punished for the behaviour that they engaged in but who hasn't had a chance to become more well or make different choices," she said.

She said during the pilot project, they found people who took part in the program saw decreased interactions with police, made healthier and safer decisions about substance use, saw an increased ability to meet bail conditions and accessed various substance use and community services.

The program is run by Stonehenge and uses funding from Guelph ($61,200) and Wellington County ($38,800).

People can be referred to the program by lawyers, judges, justices, probation or parole offices, police or the John Howard Society.

Corrections

  • A previous story incorrectly identified the clinical director of community services for Stonehenge Therapeutic Community as Kelly.
    May 14, 2019 9:34 AM ET

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