Extended treatment programs proposed

An Alberta judge is recommending young drug addicts be locked up and forced into extended treatment programs.


Provincial Court Judge Hugh Fuller proposes periods of confinement for youths suffering from addictions so counsellors can be given more time to assess their condition.


Current legislation allows youths to be locked up for five days, but he calls that time frame a “limited window” of opportunity, only serving to confirm an addiction and that someone requires treatment.


The recommendation is part of a fatality inquiry conducted into the death of a 17-year-old male who was under the care of social services.


“When their addiction warrants treatment, continued confinement is both appropriate and justifiable,” he wrote in the report.

“Difficult choices are required in dealing with addictions issues.”

He concludes the confinement should remain in place for as long as necessary, pending timely reviews and continued recommendations by a qualified addictions expert.

The teenager was killed near Stony Plain, Alta., after he bolted from a social worker’s vehicle and ran through traffic until a truck smashed into him on a busy highway on Sept. 28, 2005.

He had a history of drug and alcohol abuse leading up to his death, and social workers had reported the youth had experienced suicidal thoughts and hallucinations.

The teen had been placed in foster care and several group homes since he was three months old and suffered from a brain disorder since his mother had abused solvents during her pregnancy.

As he grew older, the prospect of leaving the care of a group home terrified him and he resisted therapy programs, the judge concluded.

He died after a social worker picked him up from a family visit west of the city, and he tried to jump out of her moving vehicle. She pulled over and he immediately fled from the car, running into traffic while taking off his clothes. A toxicology report discovered he had alcohol and drugs in his system.

Fuller praised the youth’s primary social worker, Ellen Schaefer, for her dedication to helping him, but recommended the province’s Children’s Services department needs to expand its therapy options to be more innovative since the youth resisted all of them.