In spite of the economic challenges facing the country, a local High Court judge is pleading with the Freundel Stuart administration to pump more money into drug treatment and the Probation Department.
Justice Randall Worrell made a strong call for adequate Government funding for the various drug treatment and counselling entities in the island, as he addressed the official launch this morning of a Drug Treatment Court at the Supreme Court Complex on Whitepark Road.
Justice Worrell, who is chairman of the Drug Treatment Court Steering Committee, told the audience that included Attorney General Adriel Brathwaite, judges and senior representatives of the Canadian and United States governments and the OAS, that a firm emphasis must be on treatment supervised and monitored by the court and DTC team.
“Hence, if treatment is integral to its success, the only way that the DTC can be effective is to ensure that there are proper treatment and counselling facilities, which are funded in a manner that breeds success,” the High Court judge said.
“How can we achieve this, when agencies such as CASA, that is the Centre For Counselling Addiction Support Alternative, now approximately 14 years old, has in the very recent past, been on the brink of collapse?” the Supreme Court judicial officer asked.
He was of the view that any proper functioning DTC must be properly served by treatment, counselling and health care professionals.
“So although this is a pilot project, where technical and tangible assistance is provided by the OAS/CICAD and Canada, it is the duty of the powers that be, to ensure that the components which make up the DTC team are ‘firing’ on all cylinders in order to produce the collaborative effort needed for success,” added Judge Worrell.
“It cannot be business as usual therefore,” he insisted, “to cut annual subventions to entities such as CASA. In order to make the transitional move from treating an accused to a DTC participant or client, we must ensure that all of the critical support is in place.”
He suggested that CASA was not the only area in need of reinforcement.
“Linkages also need to be formed with overseas donors by organizations such as CASA bearing in mind the economic strictures in which the Government is operating. After all, it is no good being the beneficiary of overseas training in Canada due to be held next month and also local training and then not be able to fully function due to financial constraints,” argued the High Court judge.
He sought, also to make a case for public and private sector funding for Verdun House, which needs assistance in meeting its financial shortfall to provide treatment and drug counselling services.
Justice Worrell again pleaded with the Government to use the savings derived from not having to fund various aspects of the Drug Treatment Court, to employ at least one additional probation officer.
He reminded the Government that the Caribbean Court of Justice deemed it necessary for this department to be properly staffed, if the Government was saving on not having to appoint an additional magistrate and not having to pay for the services of the Forensic Science Centre.
“[And] not having to outfit and, or pay for a new courtroom, not to pay for a manager for the court as the existing clerk would be in a position to coordinate the court, then surely, the savings or most of them can be used on at least one more probation officer or the setting up of a satellite office of the probation department within this bulding [Supreme Court Complex],” asserted the head of the Drug Treatment Court Steering Committee.
In response, Attorney General Adriel Brathwaite gave his guarantee, that as long as he was holding that portfolio, everything would be done to ensure the success of the court.
Brathwaite said in spite of requests for an additional probation officer and funding for CASA, he would ensure the project was sustainable and that the various professionals such as magistrates and police officers were trained.
The Attorney General told the gathering too that he would seek to ensure that the Barbados DTC model was replicated throughout the Caribbean. Both Canada and the OAS pledged their continued support for drug treatment as an alternative to imprisonment.