Drs. Nicholls and Sharifi will co-lead a team of researchers to evaluate a policy that, in 2017, saw responsibility for corrections healthcare in BC transferred from the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General to the Ministry of Health. BC Mental Health and Substance Use Services now oversees this portfolio.
Several jurisdictions worldwide have adopted this approach, but there is a critical lack of research and evaluation on both process and outcomes of this policy. According to Nicholls, principal researcher, the team hopes to inform this study with findings that support the 2017 transfer of oversight.
"People who go to prison experience disproportionate health burdens, including high rates of chronic disease, communicable disease, mental illness and substance use issues, compared to the general population," said Nicholls, noting that 40 per cent of incarcerated women in BC Corrections are Indigenous even though they comprise approximately 4 per cent of the general population.
"Prison admissions provide a unique opportunity to provide health care to marginalized individuals, including people who experience mental illness, homelessness and substance-use problems."
Project researchers – from UBC, SFU, BC Mental Health & Substance Use Services, and BC Corrections branch - will engage in a collaborative, inclusive, priority-setting exercise focused on healthcare delivery in BC correctional facilities. Transitions and aftercare will be emphasized.
The primary goal is to co-develop a research agenda to evaluate the healthcare governance transition through meetings with people with lived experience, family members, clinicians, decision-makers, quality and strategic information management experts, and researchers.
These stakeholders will help to determine future research priorities.
The Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research Convening and Collaborating Awards program is designed to build capacity for the development and use of research evidence in practice, policy and further research by promoting knowledge exchange between health researchers and research users.
Dr. Tonia Nicholls is a Distinguished Scientist with BC Mental Health and Substance Use Services. She is also Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of British Columbia, and Adjunct Professor in the Department of Psychology at Simon Fraser University. Professor Nicholls has received several awards over her career, including a Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) New Investigator and a Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research career scholar awards. She presently hold a CIHR Foundation grant (>2 Million).
Dr. Nader Sharifi is the medical director for Correctional Health Services, overseeing the medical care of all clients at BC's provincial corrections centres. He is also the addictions lead for all of BC Mental Health and Substance Use Services. With a doctor of medicine from Dalhousie University and certification in both addictions medicine and correctional health, Sharifi has practiced correctional medicine for 20 years.