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Foundations in Drug Treatment Courts

Drug Treatment Courts, the why, the how and the impacts

Drug Treatment Courts are justice treatment partnerships which aim to address the revolving door pattern of criminal behavior due to drug addiction. Experienced practitioners explain the rationale, optimal operational practices and outcomes of Drug Treatment Courts. 

Judie Birns

Executive Director

Regina Drug Treatment Court

Grace Froese

Provincial Drug Court Development and Training Liaison

Director, Edmonton Drug Treatment Court Service

Edmonton John Howard Society

Arla Liska

Executive Director

Calgary Drug Treatment Court 

Drug Treatment Court Program: Evolution and Evaluation


Laura Day and Sarah Pichut


Experts from the Toronto Drug Treatment Court (TDTC) program explain how the TDTC has been working through an evolutionary process to redefine success.  With the clear understanding that Substance Use is a symptom which is highly influenced by factors such as social determinants of health, the TDTC has sought to “re-define success”, recognizing the role that factors such as poverty, stigma/discrimination, trauma, brain injuries and homelessness pay as contributing factors. The TDTC program has sought to respond to the evidence regarding substance use, treatment and trauma, the increasing complexities that our client population bring to the program, the increasingly dangerous drug supply, and emerging harm reduction strategies while continuing to serve clients who are deemed to be high risk and high needs.  This process has produced both minor and significant changes in what experts consider to be a malleable, client-centered environment and culture.


The main learning objectives of this presentation are:                                                                                                


Learn about the changes made, reasons for the changes and changes yet to come

Learn about the new evaluation framework and early results

Speaker Bios

Laura Day

Laura Day has been a social worker at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health for 13 years. She has spent most of her career advocating for alternatives to incarceration for people with mental health and addictions in the Toronto Drug Treatment Court. She runs a specialized stream for women in the Toronto Drug Treatment Court. She is a passionate believer in the principles of harm reduction. She holds a Master of Social Work from the University of Toronto. 

Sarah Pichut

Sarah Pichut has worked as a Counselor/Therapist at CAMH (Centre for Addiction and Mental Health) for nearly 2 decades in a variety of programs. For the past 4 years she has been with Toronto’s DTC (Drug Treatment Court), which feels like home. As a Registered Social Worker and Registered Psychotherapist, Sarah is passionate about supporting people through their struggles with addiction, mental health, and the justice system, with the understanding that a trauma-informed, client-centered, holistic approach is necessary to help this population meet their goals and define success.

Paul Bentley Memorial Series:

Moderator: Justice Kofi Barnes, Ontario Superior Court, Chair, AJTP and IATCP.

Pioneers who dared to create a Justice and Treatment Partnership

26 years ago, a group of professionals gathered to plan a justice treatment partnership called a Drug Treatment Court. 26 years ago, this was revolutionary. These accomplished men and women take a retrospective look at all aspects of the process involved in planning and implementing this problem-solving court. In so doing, they share their memories of the judge who had called them to come together, the late Paul Bentley.

Justice Paul Burstein


Ontario Court of Justice

Gloria Chaim

Retired Mental Health and Addiction Treatment Professional

Wade Hillier

Deputy Registrar at Retirement Homes Regulatory Authority

Antonio Lomba


Institutional Strengthening Unit of the Executive Secretariat of CICAD/OAS

Organization of American States

Brian Parris

Retired Public Health Professional


Community Advisory Committee

Toronto Drug Treatment Court

Croft Michaelson

Vice President, Chief Legal Officer & Head of Global Investigations

Legal & Regulatory Compliance |BMO Financial Group

Long May You Run: Drug Courts in the Twenty First Century


Drug Treatment Courts offer a revolutionary approach to solving the endemic social and public health issue of drug addiction. Justice of the Peace Mangesh Duggal discusses the outcomes of his careful analysis of the efficacy of Drug Treatment Courts.


His Worship Mangesh Duggal

Justice of the Peace

Ontario Court of Justice

Drug Treatment Courts (DTC) are a type of Justice and Treatment Partnership which integrates legal processing with addiction and other holistic treatment processes. The objective of the DTC method is to break or reduce the link between criminal behavior, drug addiction and other determinants of crime for program participants.


In this educational video DTC practitioners from the Drug Treatment Court in Regina, Saskatchewan illustrate how the key components and best

practice standards of Drug Treatment Courts are applied in the Drug Treatment Court in Regina, Saskatchewan

Therapeutic Courts in Canada – A jurisdictional scan of mental health courts and drug treatment courts.

The province of Ontario conducted a jurisdictional scan to identify the common barriers, and challenges of Therapeutic Courts from across Canada. This report also identified some recommendations to optimize successful outcomes. A principal author of the report will discuss some important lessons learned.

Susan Reid
Counsel Ontario Crown Law Office - Criminal

Ottawa Drug Treatment Court

The “why, the how and impacts” of the Ottawa Drug Treatment Court. Barriers, Challenges, Successes and best practice recommendations.

Marie L. Dufort

Assistant Crown Attorney

Ottawa Crown Attorney's Office

St John's Drug Treatment Court

The “why, the how and impacts” of the St John's Drug Treatment Court. Barriers, Challenges, Successes and best practice recommendations.

Judge D. Orr

Provincial Court of Newfoundland

Vancouver Drug Treatment Court



The “why, the how and impacts” of the Vancouver Drug Treatment Court. Barriers, Challenges, Successes and best practice recommendations.


Jayce Allen

Crown Counsel

Drug Treatment Court of Vancouver

Impacts of Cannabis on Drug Treatment Court Programs in Ontario

Possession of cannabis for personal use is decriminalized in Canada. Findings from a study on cannabis use by Drug Treatment Court program participants will be discussed by experienced drug policy practitioners and a research team member with lived experience of DTC program participation.


Candace Vena, M.A. (moderator)

Director of Justice Policy

Canadian Mental Health Association, Ontario

Canadian Mental Health Association, Ontario

Sudha Sabanadesan

Policy Analyst (Substance Use Lead)

Canadian Mental Health Association Ontario

Nikoleta Curcin

Research Consultant

Winnipeg Drug Treatment Court



The “why, the how and impacts” of the Winnipeg Drug Treatment Court. Barriers, Challenges, Successes and best practice recommendations.

Judge Tracey M. Lord

Associate Chief Judge

Provincial Court of Manitoba

Success Factors for Drug Treatment Courts - a DTC Judge and DTC Alum's Perspective


A drug treatment court graduate and the judge who presided in the Toronto Drug Treatment Court during her tenure share insights on some success factors.

Justice Steven Clark

Ontario Court of Justice

Nikoleta Curcin

Research Consultant

Toronto Drug Treatment Court Graduate

Persons with Lived Experiences Roundtable


Persons with lived experience and drug treatment court alumni identify the barriers, challenges, successes and best practice recommendations on how Drug Treatment Courts can improve. In this panel, participants have their say on how to optimize program results.

Judie Birns


Drug Treatment Court of Regina

Meagan Jasper

Drug Treatment Court Alum

Kerry Gladue

Drug Treatment Court Alum

Nikoleta Curcin

Drug Treatment Court Alum

Melissa Duck

Drug Treatment Court Alum

Trauma-Informed Processes

This presentation focuses on what trauma is, how it affects us, why we should consider it in the courtroom, and what courtroom practices we can implement to help alleviate the ongoing effects of trauma. The prevalence of serious traumatic experiences among our neighbours and fellow community members is alarming, and its consequences can be severe, manifesting in stressful environments like courtrooms. Presenters in this section will walk through direct clinical experiences, personal experiences, and a case study to help illustrate the many sides of trauma. This presentation will conclude with suggestions on how court practitioners can better help case participants cope with trauma and on how to incorporate trauma-informed practices into the courtroom.

Lindsey Price Jackson, Senior Program Manager of Community Justice Initiatives, Centre for Justice Innovation, New York

Kathryn Ford

Director of Clinical Supervision and Child Witness Initiatives

Centre for Justice Innovation, New York

Toronto Drug Treatment Court

The “why, the how and impacts” of the Toronto Drug Treatment Court shall be discussed including barriers, challenges, successes and best practice recommendations

Robin Cuff, RP

Manager, Acute Care

Centre for Addiction and Mental Health

Jennifer Lofft

Assistant Crown Attorney

Toronto Drug Treatment Court and Mental Health Court

Old City Hall