Guest Post: Providing Continuity of Care for BC Corrections Patients as they Re-enter the Community
It’s important to be able to provide continuity of care for patients in provincial correctional centres when they are released into the community. For this reason, BC Corrections wants to work with community pharmacies to ensure patients can receive the medications they need upon release through collaboration with the treating physicians.
BC Corrections is responsible for providing health care services to persons in custody throughout its ten provincial correctional centres, ranging from Vancouver Island to Prince George. While some release dates are planned, other releases following attendance at court can be unpredictable, making it challenging to prepare for their transfer of care from the correctional centre to the community.
For persons serving a sentence, the discharge date is known and physicians prepare and fax patients’ prescriptions to a community pharmacy of their choice to ensure continuity of treatment following their release back into the community.
For persons remanded into custody while awaiting trial, release from court can be unpredictable and often unexpected. Following a court appearance, they may receive no sentence, may be placed on probation, be sentenced to time served, or may post bail, thereby returning to the community without the benefit of release planning or ongoing prescriptions from their treating physician in Corrections. When this happens they may suffer significantly from abrupt discontinuation of opioid agonist treatment, pain or cardiac medications, as well as antibiotics, psychiatric or other critical therapies. In addition to destabilizing their health, this may also lead to drug-seeking behaviours, overdoses, and greater likelihood of re-offending. Patients under active treatment are also visiting hospital Emergency Departments in an effort to obtain and continue their medications – a significant burden on the health care system. As a result, ensuring patients released from correctional centres receive continuity of care when they are released into the community is important in improving patient outcomes, promoting public safety and reducing re-offending.
To support continuity of care when patients are released at court unexpectedly, BC Corrections will be instructing any correctional centre patient attending court to present to the nearest pharmacy, in the event of release into the community.
The patient is to advise the pharmacist of the name of the centre where they were treated, and ask the pharmacist to call that centre to receive an ongoing or bridging prescription until they are able to access a physician in the community.
Bridging prescriptions will generally last between 7 and 14 days, or longer, depending on the medication, the condition and the anticipated appointment with a doctor.
We sincerely look forward to collaborating with community pharmacies across BC to help provide better continuity of care and outcomes for these patients.
BC Corrections Contact Information to Reach Treating Physicians
Our list of provincial correctional centres includes the appropriate contact information to reach a treating physician at a centre.
Centers can be reached during the daytime with the numbers listed for each location. For evenings, weekends, holidays, or in the absence of a centre physician, please use the BC Corrections provincial on-call physician answering service.
The provincial correctional centres contact list is available through the College’s secure eServices website.
Dr. Diane A. Rothon, BSc MD CM MPH CFPC
Dr. Diane Rothon is an addiction and public health physician. Currently, Dr. Rothon works as Medical Director for BC Corrections, Medical Director for Youth Custody Services, and is co-founder of the Drug Treatment Court of Vancouver, a successful program of alternative to incarceration where she has provided patient care for many years. Her specialties include Addiction Medicine, Public Health and Emergency Medicine. Dr. Rothon is a long-standing member of the teaching faculty of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of BC and of the College’s Opioid Treatment Panel. Among other contributions, she has co-authored the College of Physicians and Surgeons of BC guideline for the treatment of opioid addiction and the new BC Centre on Substance Use Clinical Practice Guideline for Opioid Use Disorder.
Dr. Rothon's abiding principle is reflected in the words of the eminent Canadian physician Sir William Osler: "Listen to your patients, they are telling you the diagnosis”.