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Protecting individuals in police custody is a mandate that law enforcement agencies must extend to every individual under their care. That includes detainees who often arrive  with serious health concerns and require timely medical attention when brought into a detention centre. Without onsite healthcare support, however, those needs can go unmet, creating both short and long-term negative impacts for all involved.

"Most of the time, when a detainee comes into a detention centre who needs physical or mental healthcare, there is no one there to provide it. That means officers are required to transport them to a local hospital, which ends up costing the agency time, staffing, and additional expenses while also adding strain to public healthcare systems," says Wesley Karges, Health Account Executive with Calian.

Reversely, there are positive outcomes to be gained when agencies embed healthcare professionals within the short-term detention centre itself who can respond to detainees' needs when they arrive. Doing so ensures the health and safety of the detainee, frees officers to continue their work in-community, and diverts individuals in need of medical care from local emergency rooms. 

 “By having a healthcare professional within the justice system who is there to help upon detainment, we can intervene in meaningful ways to address immediate issues and prevent long-term issues,” adds Karges.

A win-win-win scenario

Having onsite medical care in detention centres benefits all stakeholders. First, there are the detainees who, statistically, are likely to have both acute and chronic care needs ranging from open wounds and injuries to mental health disorders and substance abuse issues, among other challenges.

“By providing those people with immediate care in the interim, we can provide stability for the time that they're in our care or within the detention centre,” notes Karges.

The second group of stakeholders to benefit are the law enforcement officers themselves. The ability to entrust a detainee's healthcare needs to an onsite professional reduces the need for additional transportation to medical facilities, reduces officer liability, and softens operational impacts such as remand centre rejections based on medical grounds.

Lastly, says Karges, the third benefactor in this arrangement is the healthcare system at large as it equates to less pressure on local healthcare services: "For example, over the last five years in Alberta, we've reduced the number of ambulance calls by approximately 2000. As you can imagine, that can be a significant relief for nearby healthcare providers."

Supporting mental health 

Detainees with mental health or substance abuse challenges don't fare well in custody without timely and attentive healthcare support. As such, the opportunity to be cared for by healthcare professionals who can assess their state and connect them to additional care services goes a long way toward preventing their conditions from worsening.

"We can refer those individuals to community sources that can help them with their mental health and addictions issues, and we make those kinds of calls for hundreds of people a month," notes Karges. "And, because we know negative outcomes can flow from being addicted to substances, addressing those issues early and getting people the help they need can help break the cycle of incrimination."

No doubt, he continues, “There’s a significant sociatal benefit to curbing recidivism.”

Law enforcement agencies are always challenged to make the most effective use of their resources. Embedding healthcare services onsite within detention centers is one proven method providing much-needed care for medically vulnerable detainees while generating long-term benefits for all stakeholder in the process.

Visit calian.com/health to learn more.

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