UCP leader and Premier Danielle Smith held a press conference recently unveiling the Compassionate Intervention Act, which is a non-voluntary court-ordered addiction treatment plan. This will bring more than 700 new beds and 11 treatment centres or "recovery communities" across the province, along with 5 new mental health centres with 75 beds each. Of the 11 recovery communities, four of them would be in First Nations, with one of those First Nations being Siksika Nation.

Among other First Nations leaders and several people impacted by addiction, Smith was joined by Siksika Chief Ouray Crowfoot, who believes this treatment plan would benefit not only Siksika, but all of Alberta.

"They have a good action plan, we are working with the Province of Alberta to make Siksika safe. This is not an Indigenous issue, it's not a Siksika issue, this is an Alberta, worldwide pandemic. Every day we have people from Siksika and other First Nations that are passing away. People in Calgary, Red Deer, every city in Alberta are passing away every day. So we can not idly sit by and just hope this goes away, we have to meet this head-on," Crowfoot said.

Saying the government's number one job is citizen safety, Smith believes this involuntary treatment plan is the best way to ensure the safety of the person being treated and anyone who may have been at risk of a random act of violence due to said person.

"The act would allow for a family member, doctor, psychologist, or police officer to make a petition to a specially appointed non-criminal judge to issue a treatment order. The court would be able to divert an addict who is an imminent danger to themselves or others to treatment instead of jail. This step would be a last resort in order to save lives and prevent the overdose deaths, assaults, and attacks happening in Alberta as a result of drug use," Smith said.

The safety aspect of this act was highlighted by Smith, and she added this is one of several ways the government hopes to make the streets safer, along with more police and increased tracking of people out on bail. Smith said this addiction treatment plan on top of the additional mental health centres will go a long way towards this goal.

"Voluntary treatment will always remain our top priority. On the other hand, when people commit crimes, they should be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law. having an illness does not absolve anyone of their criminal responsibility, but there are people who are suffering, people who are an imminent danger to themselves and others who need a more assertive intervention to ensure they get better to save their lives and to keep our communities safe," Smith added.

In response to this announcement, Alberta NDP leader Rachel Notley agreed that an investment in addiction recovery and mental health treatment was necessary, but said "Overall, forced recover is not successful."

"You have to have a whole-person response and approach. You need to be looking at far broader forms of therapy and support at the front end and a lot more transitional support at the other end," she said.

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