We provide health care, including mental health and addiction care, to people in custody in British Columbia’s 10 provincial correctional centres.
Our patients, whom we call clients, receive both health and mental health assessments and care when they are admitted into one of B.C.'s 10 provincial correctional centres. Our teams make sure our clients receive the same quality of care as they would in the community, and that it continues once they are discharged and return to their lives.
To provide quality care that is readily available when clients need it, Correctional Health Services is integrated with B.C.’s general health care system, which is governed by the Ministry of Health. Our province is one of the first in Canada to move correctional health care responsibilities from the Ministry of Justice to the Ministry of Health. This move follows recommendations from both the
College of Family Physicians of Canada and the
World Health Organization.
At any one time, about 2,700 clients are incarcerated in one of B.C.’s correctional centres. This means we see about 18,000 clients per year. These facilities are different from federal penitentiaries. For information on federally incarcerated inmates, visit
Correctional Service Canada.
People who are incarcerated are often in poorer health than the general population, and more likely to live with chronic illness. Often, they have faced barriers to care before becoming incarcerated. To meet their specific needs, we offer the following services:
- Medical and nursing care
- Mental health and substance use treatment programs and services
- Basic emergency response services
- Public health services such as flu immunization clinics
- Urgent dental care
- Pharmacy services
- X-ray imaging and lab work
- Health-related discharge planning to help clients transition successfully to community-based care
People in custody are much more likely to live with a mental illness or addiction than the general population. In fact, up to 60 per cent of people in custody have either a mental illness, an addiction, or both.
Given these needs, we’ve increased mental health and substance use supports for clients in our care. One key support is wide access to
opioid agonist treatment, often called OAT, which uses medications such as Suboxone and methadone to help people manage addiction and withdrawal symptoms.
Approximately 40 per cent of our client population is on opioid agonist treatment, and there is no waiting list. If a client is already on opioid agonist treatment when they are admitted to a correctional facility, we ensure they can stay on their medication. As part of transition planning, when clients are about to be discharged, we provide a prescription for their opioid agonist therapy, as well as a connection to a community physician, so they can continue their treatment.
In 2018, Corrections Health Services established five Community Transition Teams (CTTs) to provide comprehensive care coordination and peer support to clients with an opioid use disorder (OUD). The aim of CTTs is to reduce overdose deaths, enhance health outcomes, and reduce harms associated with repeat involvement with the criminal justice system. The initiative was part of the provincial response to the public health emergency declared by BC’s Provincial Health Officer in relation to the overdose crisis.
The CTT program has expanded, adding an additional five teams, to establish province-wide coverage to support care, coordination and transitional support for individuals leaving correctional centres across the province.
All ten teams across the province support clients with complex health care needs including risk of substance use relapse and/or death due to toxic overdose as the transition from a number of BCMHSUS inpatient facilities. CTTs function as a health navigator, linking clients to mental health and substance use services in the community, bridging the gap between correctional institutions and communities, and between formerly incarcerated clients and the communities in which they live.
Through a client-centred approach, CTTs provide short-term clinical intervention including primary care, psychiatric treatment, counselling, and opioid agonist therapy, support, and relapse management up to 90 days, adjusting the assistance as independence or natural supports are obtained.
The CTT program mandate is as follows:
- Support clients with substance use disorders more broadly
- Support clients with complex mental health and/or substance use needs as they return to the community from a correctional centre
- Up to 90-day program support with possibility of extension.
The CTT staffing model includes social workers, peer support workers, Indigenous patient navigators and nurse prescribers. In addition to the 10 regionally focused teams, the Provincial Community Transition Team Hub (the Hub) is located in the Lower Mainland and provides coordination and standardization across the regional teams. The Hub will also support data-driven continuous quality improvement and facilitate education and training for CTT staff.
Health care teams include physicians, nurses, mental health and substance use specialists, pharmacists, and other professionals. Clients can also see specialists via virtual health services.
Correctional Health Services works with BC Corrections as partners in client care. While the Correctional Health Services team provides care, correctional officers keep both staff and clients safe. To learn more about B.C.’s correctional centres, visit the
BC Corrections website.