Services fail drug prisoners
Prisoners with mental health needs, including those with substance misuse problems, are being failed by prison services, according to a new report from HM Inspectorate of Prisons. The mental health of prisoners analysed the screening procedures of more than 250 new prisoners disclosing substance misuse problems on arrival at 14 prisons, and found that half were not given a urine test or referred to drugs services, and a third did not have a full history taken. The report offers little evidence of effective joined-up working between substance misuse and mental health services in prisons, despite 'the well-established connection between substance misuse and mental illness'. Four out of five mental health in-reach teams felt unable to adequately respond to the range of need, and the report found no clear blueprint for delivering mental healthcare in prisons. Neither substance misuse nor mental health services were sufficiently alert to the different needs of BME communities, it says. Prisoners also commented that detoxification was 'too little, too fast and too late,' and that little psycho-social or mental health support was offered to those withdrawing from drugs. Levels of alcohol dependency were not reliably assessed, and very few were offered alcohol detoxification. There was also evidence that continuity of care was disrupted on transfer. 'Much activity around the current national drug strategy has centred on breaking the cycle of drugs and crime, with drug treatment for offenders stated as a major focus point,' said DrugScope chief executive Martin Barnes. 'Yet time and again we are seeing failings in the duty of care for those prisoners with a drug or alcohol dependency, let alone the construction of a systematic, comprehensive prison drug treatment system. 'It is extremely concerning that only half of those who disclosed a substance misuse problem on entry to prison received a urine test and that only half were referred to drug services,' he said. 'It is clear that short, sharp detoxification is still the experience for many entering prison, even those who were in receipt of a prescribed substitute drug such as methadone prior to custody.'