In recent years, there’s been a bigger focus on mental health for those that are addicted to drugs. It used to be that many of these people would face jail or prison sentences, without getting the treatment that they needed to get off of drugs. In Edmonton, a new program has sought out to help these people that have been charged with drug crimes or have used in the past, and it’s been very beneficial for people thus far.

The program was given a $20 million grant from Alberta to expand the service for those that are going through the drug court system. Many were waiting to get into the treatment program, which only had just over 20 people that were being treated. That expansion, though, the number of people treated just about doubled as drug court treatment was also placed into other cities.

“This is something I was hoping for ever since I started this position six years ago,” said program manager Grace Froese. “This is something that’s needed. Everyone should have access to this type of program.” The expansion has gotten Edmontonians through treatment, including Alana Lambert. She was arrested on drug charges after years of using, which dated back to when she became addicted to heroin as a teenager. “For me, I was lost in addiction,” she said.

After nearly two full years in the program, Lambert graduated and was celebrating her sobriety. Her family has allowed her to come back into their lives, and she’s been doing much better after adjusting to the usual swing of things without drugs. “Now I live a day to day life and it’s easy to get up and go to work and be accountable to my adult life,” she said. “I do want to do something with people because I really feel that my experience can help other people.”

The program itself dates back to 2005, and Lambert’s success story isn’t unique. “It was an off-ramp that actually worked,” said Edmonton Chief of Police Dale McFee. “If you did an economic impact assessment (the program) would be way more valuable than just throwing somebody into jail.”