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Correctional Health Services

We provide health care, including mental health and substance use care, to people in custody in British Columbia’s 10 provincial correctional centres.

As of October 1, 2017, the Provincial Health Services Authority assumed responsibility for health services provided in BC correctional centres. Correctional Health Services is operated as part of PHSA’s BC Mental Health & Substance Use Services portfolio. 

BCMHSUS has a broad network of well-established external partnerships with regional health authorities, advocacy organizations and other health care agencies across BC, and is well-positioned to provide this care. This responsibility for BCMHSUS will help to improve the quality and continuity of health care services for clients as they move between correctional centres and the community.

BC is one of the first provinces in Canada to move responsibility for correctional health care services from a ministry of justice to a ministry of health, as recommended by the College of Family Physicians of Canada and the World Health Organization.



Services include:

  • Medical and nursing care for clients in correctional facilities
  • Mental health and substance use services
  • Urgent care and basic emergency response services for clients
  • Selected public health services for clients and staff (i.e. immunization clinics)
  • Urgent dental care
  • Health-related discharge planning and transition to community care
  • Pharmacy services
  • Other contracted services that are currently provided in correctional facilities (such as x-ray imaging, lab work, etc.)

Model of care

BCMHSUS has developed a model of care for correctional health services at ten provincial correctional centres across British Columbia that will improve the quality and continuity of care and integrate health care services within the broader BC public health care system. The focus is to provide high quality health care to clients with complex physical, mental health and/or substance use issues while they are in custody.  Upon admission, all clients will have a complete physical and mental health assessment to identify those who are ill, are undergoing treatment for a particular disease, or are at high risk for health and mental health complications. This will help to ensure continuation of medication and/or other appropriate treatment, identify and prevent the spread of communicable diseases, and identify clients at risk of suicide or self-harm. After the initial assessment, clients will receive further care as needed. 


Health care teams, located in each centre, include physicians, nurses, mental health and substance use professionals and others working together to assess, screen, triage, treat and transition clients back to the community. This involves close collaboration with community-based service providers in the regional health authorities.

Correctional Health Services is building on the existing foundation of quality care and service. The vast majority of PHSA Correctional Health staff previously worked in BC correctional centres under the contractor previously responsible for health care services. Their experience and expertise support a smooth transition and will help to ensure service continuity. The new staffing model includes approximately 30 additional positions across BC’s ten provincial correctional centres.  

PHSA recognizes the role of BC Corrections staff as partners in client care. Correctional officers keep staff and clients safe, and maintain an environment conducive to quality, client-focused care.

A collaborative approach that includes BC Corrections, PHSA Correctional Health Services, regional health authorities, First Nations Health Authority and other community partners support client transitions between correctional centres and community.

Tab Heading

Mountain in background with park, Indigenous welcome post and wooden sign in foregroundQuality health, mental health, and addiction care for people in custody

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 their care 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.

Unique health care needs of B.C.’s incarcerated population

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
  • Indigenous cultural care and services

Additional support for people with opioid use disorder

People in custody are much more likely to live with a mental illness or substance use than the general population. In fact, up to 60 per cent of people in custody have either a mental illness, substance use, 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.

Community Transition Teams

Learn more about Community Transition Teams who support the health and well-being of people leaving BC's provincial correctional centres, helping to safely transition them back into the communities where they live.

Correctional Health Services team

Health care teams include physicians, nurses, mental health and substance use specialists, pharmacists, peer support workers and other professionals. Clients can also see specialists via virtual health services.


Program partners: BC Corrections

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.

SOURCE: Correctional Health Services ( )
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