Indigenous inmates need better access to mental health services and drug use services: BC Auditor General
The Provincial Health Services Authority (PHSA) did not consistently provide access to mental health and drug use services to Indigenous peoples in British Columbia’s correctional facilities, according to BC’s Office of the Auditor General.
A statement from Auditor General Michael Pickup’s office said the PHSA – which has been responsible for health care at BC’s 10 correctional facilities since 2017 – “has not been able to confirm whether Indigenous clients entering correctional facilities are receiving the required mental health services.” health and drug use maintained, assessed appropriately, or had discharge plans in place for their discharge.”
A review of 92 Indigenous client files from 2019 to 2021 found gaps in the PHSA’s monitoring and oversight due to the limited capacity of its client health information system and a lack of reviews of client files.
According to Pickup, the system cannot generate detailed reports, making it difficult for employees to assess whether they are providing the required services to everyone who needs them.
“After reviewing these files, we have determined that the PHSA is not fully performing what it is supposed to be doing,” Pickup said in a news conference Thursday. “And frankly, the PHSA needs to take better care of the care of the indigenous people in the correctional facilities.”
The audit found that while health screenings for most Indigenous clients were completed in a timely manner, the PHSA did not consistently conduct comprehensive assessments and detailed care plans, or ensure clients were connected to the services.
Less than half of the Indigenous client records in the sample had a full mental health care plan and/or drug use services. About 80 percent of customers received some services, while about 20 percent received no services.
The audit also found that seven percent of clients in the sample had a layoff plan, while more than half received some form of layoff plan.
When asked if non-Indigenous inmates face similar gaps in mental health and drug use services, Pickup said he couldn’t make that assumption, but the audit raised “fair questions that people might want to ask the health agency.” “.
According to Pickup, tribal peoples are over-represented in correctional facilities, where the effects of colonialism and discrimination are evident.
In 2020-21, on an average day, BC Corrections held about 1,500 people in custody, about 500 of whom identified as Indigenous, according to the Office of the Auditor General. Between 2019 and 2021, around 90 percent of Indigenous men and women in provincial detention had a diagnosed mental health disorder and/or drug use disorder.
Pickup says it’s important to remember that there are real people behind the numbers in his report.
“These are real people, each with individual issues, whether they be substance-related issues or mental health issues or both,” he said. “Each of those people is equally important, and it’s just as important that everyone has that continuum of caring.”
The review includes four recommendations to improve the internal reporting and monitoring of mental health and drug use services in British Columbia’s correctional institutions. PHSA accepted all four recommendations.