A new program is aiming to connect prisoners being released from B.C.’s provincial jails with “transition teams” in an effort to prevent drug overdoses.
According to a BC Coroners Service report, two-thirds of those who died of drug overdoses in B.C. in a period spanning 2016 and 2017 had recent contact with the criminal-justice system. Of those, 10 per cent died within a month of their release from a corrections facility.
Community transition teams are being stationed in five cities across B.C. — Kamloops, Surrey, Prince George, Nanaimo and Port Coquitlam.
“People who are transitioning back to their communities after incarceration deserve a fresh start,” said Judy Darcy, B.C.’s minister of mental health and additions.
“For those with opioid-use disorder, the guidance of peer support is foundational to preventing overdose. Together with all partners, we are building a full spectrum of connected services to save lives so that people from all walks of life can find the support they need to find a pathway to hope and healing.”
Transition teams will work with people for 30 days following their release from a provincial jail. Work will include forming connections with health-care professionals, filling prescriptions and other recovery supports.
“People involved with the criminal-justice system are some of society’s most vulnerable,” said Lynn Pelletier, vice-president of BC Mental Health and Substance Use Services, which oversees Correctional Health Services.
“They’re also among the hardest to reach in the midst of this overdose emergency. Integrating correctional care with community-based care gives us an opportunity not just to prevent overdose, but also connect to health services and possibly change the trajectory of their lives by addressing some of the social and economic realities that brought them to us in the first place.”
Transition teams began working in January. Organizers hope the project will be expanded in 2020.