Sherry Asgari Pour, the health services manager at the correctional facility, led the event, having planned many like it in her previous career as a travel medicine specialist.
“Why not here?” said Asgari Pour, who has fallen in love with her new line of work since accepting her role at the correctional facility in 2015. The incarcerated people she works with stay at the facility for an average of 28 days while they await trial. She’s passionate about helping her clients stay out of prison when they leave the facility, and she believes this health fair was an important step.
Nineteen organizations participated, including PHSA’s Patient Quality and Safety Office, Trans Care BC, BC Cancer and the B.C. division of the Canadian Mental Health Association.
They gave the 250 clients who attended access to a variety of services of information about employment, legal help, Naloxone training, cancer prevention, mental-health supports, transgender care supports, housing and more. “Anything to help them stay out of prison,” said Asgari Pour.
She also wants to make sure her clients have the health support they need during their terms, which can be very mentally challenging. “Some are first-timers, which adds to their distress,” she said. “I want them to know the supports they have at Surrey Pretrial and afterward.”
It’s the first event of its kind at Surrey Pretrial, and Asgari Pour and her colleagues hope to do it again—and that similar fairs can travel in other correctional facilities across the province now that PHSA is overseeing correctional health care throughout B.C.
She said she’s appreciative of the support she’s had from PHSA. “It feels like we have an army behind us,” she said. “There are so many resources—it’s been amazing.”
The fair took place in the secure part of the facility, and participants were instructed about what they could bring. Ninety per cent were serving incarcerated people for the first time.
One such participant was Karin Alleyne, a screening promotions coordinator at BC Cancer. “The health fair was a great opportunity to educate a large group that can sometimes be overlooked on the importance of cancer screening,” she said. “The more they know, the more prepared they are to keep their health top of mind upon release. We’re looking forward to attending more educational forums like this in the future.”
“This fair really provided hope, support and possibilities in relation to when they will be released or discharged,” said Ron Saligumba, the assistant health services manager at Surrey Pretrial. “Clients who attended were very receptive and appreciative of the resources available to them.”