Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Ottawa to continue funding provincial drug court

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A provincial drug rehabilitation court seen as a leader in the country has been saved at the last minute.

The federal government has agreed to fund the Winnipeg Drug Treatment Court for two more years. Funding for the court was set to end this week.

"I'm absolutely relieved they are continuing to fund the program," said defence counsel Scott Paler on Monday.

"It is money well-spent in my opinion. This court is one of the models in the country.

"There are a lot of success stories there and over time you have one they are no longer a drain on the system. They even end up becoming taxpayers," Paler said.

The drug-court budget was about $1 million last year and the federal government contributed about $516,000.

More than 50 people have successfully graduated from the drug court since it began in 2006. Of those, only 13.5 per cent have reoffended.

Last week, Manitoba Attorney General Andrew Swan went to Ottawa to ask federal Justice Minister Rob Nicholson to continue funding the program.

A spokeswoman for the Addictions Foundation of Manitoba confirmed after Swan's meeting, the foundation received a letter from the federal government on Thursday saying the funding had been approved for two more years.

Paler said not everyone who is accepted into the program completes it successfully.

Paler said that while there are some in the community who question how much the program costs versus how many people successfully complete the program, he said if you take into account policing, court and penal costs for reoffenders, "I think you can dwarf $1 million easily."

Kate Kehler, acting assistant executive director at the John Howard Society of Manitoba, said the society was also pleased the program will continue.

kevin.rollason@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 2, 2013 B1

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