BC prisoners with opiate addiction gain therapy

published on February 16, 2016 by Tamsyn Burgmann in Global News

VANCOUVER – Prisoners struggling with opiate addictions in British Columbia jails have gained the same right to medical treatment as people outside the corrections system.

BC Corrections has implemented a new policy after four men who alleged they were denied opiate replacement therapy launched a charter challenge last month.

The men, who are addicted to opiates and range in age from their 20s to late 40s, are now under the care of doctors after a settlement that will also give other prisoners access to timely therapy.

“We know, regrettably, there are drugs in provincial and federal institutions,” their lawyer Adrienne Smith said Friday. “The fentanyl epidemic doesn’t stop at the prison gate.”

“This is a step in the right direction to keep people well, particularly when they’re at a good place being able to ask for medical support.”

The new policy comes as the province’s medical health officer Dr. Perry Kendall declared Thursday that BC is facing a public health emergency involving overdoses involving drugs such as the opioid-based pain killer fentanyl.

Dr. M-J Milloy, of the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS, said that under Canadian law, health care must be equivalent for people inside and outside corrections facilities.

“Anything that moves us closer to that being the reality … is a good thing,” said the infectious-disease epidemiologist.

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