Over the past few months Equally Well Backbone Team member and Matua Raki Project Lead, Ashley Koning has been a co-facilitator for the Department of Corrections primary mental health and addiction education programme for Corrections’ health service nurses, provided by Blueprint for Learning.
One of the things that has particularly struck Ashley in meeting and talking with the nurses who work in prison settings, has been their commitment to the wellbeing of the people whom they care for. This is reflected in the Department of Corrections rapid adoption of routine metabolic screening and Hepatitis C treatment for people who are incarcerated. Both of these initiatives mean that a group at very high risk of premature mortality due to mental health and addiction issues, with 91% of prisoners having a lifetime diagnosis of a mental health or addiction disorder (Indig et al., 2016), have ready access to potentially lifesaving interventions. Interventions they may not have had access to either because they were not available to them due to cost, or because they were not aware of their need in the community.
Ashley says it is a sad reflection that the people who are most in need are possibly more likely to get appropriate care in prison than in the community.