Indigenous men and women in correctional facilities have been let down by the Provincial Health Services Authority (PHSA), according to a recent audit.
On Thursday, February 9th, the Office of the Auditor General released a statement that an audit found Indigenous people specifically were not given proper access to mental health and substance use services.
The PHSA has been in charge of healthcare for corrections facilities in BC since 2017. They failed to confirm that Indigenous clients entering their care by way of correctional institutions were provided what they needed in terms of these two crucial services, proper assessment or even discharge care plans if they were to be released.
“The social, economic and health impacts of colonialism and discrimination are evident in correctional centres, where Indigenous people are over-represented by a wide margin,” said Auditor General Michael Pickup.
“This audit shows that the PHSA must do more with its unique opportunity to help Indigenous people in correctional centres access mental health care and substance use treatments, and connect them to services after their release.”
On an average day, there are approximately 1,500 people in custody at a correctional facility in BC and typically, 500 of those individuals are Indigenous people.
The audit in question took a sample of 92 Indigenous clients of these facilities who were in correctional care between 2019 and 2021 — it found gaps in the PHSA’s oversight.
The Office of the Auditor General says this is due to a lack of client health information in their system and a lack of file reviews done by the PHSA.
The PHSA did screening for most of their Indigenous clients, but not all who were assessed received comprehensive screening, detailed care plans or consistent access to services.
The audit found that less than 50% of the Indigenous clients had a complete care plan, about 80% had received some type of service and roughly 20% had received no service whatsoever.
In addition to these statistics, the audit found that oftentimes, Indigenous clients wereare not being connected to crucial services for their continued health and wellness or community resources.
Only 7% of inmates released had a ‘discharge plan.’
The audit report and the Mental Health and Substance Use Services for Indigenous People in BC Correctional Centres came up with four recommendations for the PHSA to implement to resolve these let-downs:
- Develop reports that record whether Indigenous clients receive screening, assessments, care planning, services and discharge planning congruent with operational requirements
- Use these reports to ensure Indigenous clients receive these services consistently and comprehensively
- Ensure staff document reasoning why, in client files, when they cannot meet operational requirements
- Ensure supervisors review and sign-off on client files — including screening assessments, file reviews and discharge plans — according to operational requirements