Any prison employee will tell you that the penal community faces some of the biggest challenges in terms of the different people facilities must account for on a regular basis. The UK’s prisons house a lot of people with a lot of problems. For example, substance abuse and addiction are very common among inmates. Many of them have been incarcerated for offences directly related to their use of illegal substances.

Spectrum Community Health, a non-profit community investment company managing the healthcare services at Yorkshire’s New Hall prison, has decided to tackle the drug abuse and addiction problem head-on. It has developed a special programme along with a separate housing wing for women dealing with substance problems. For its efforts, the company has won the prestigious Royal College of General Practitioners’ (RCGP) Quality Practice Award.

In addition to regular housing, the New Hall campus includes the following for inmates with substance abuse problems:

  • a separate dormitory unit housing up to 21 women
  • a 9-bed unit for mothers with babies
  • a separate healthcare centre
  • a separate segregation unit. 

The RCGP measured the success of the New Hall programme against 130 criteria in six categories. In awarding the Quality Practice Award, the RCGP broke new ground. Since beginning the award in 1996, it has been bestowed on more than 200 and GP practices throughout the UK. It has never been awarded to a prison-based health system.

Spectrum Community Health should be proud of the efforts it has achieved at New Hall. The RCGP award recognises those efforts in the areas of patient care, record keeping, education and learning, and illness management. The award also includes a five-year accreditation that Spectrum will be able to reapply for upon expiration.

Meeting a Very Important Need

New Hall and Spectrum Community Health are to be commended for the fine work being done in Yorkshire. There is a great need for comprehensive rehabilitation services among the UK’s prison population if we are ever to get a handle on the alcohol and drug problem in the country. Simply locking up inmates is not going to get it done. History has proven as much.

The truth about addiction is that it is nearly impossible to overcome without long-term rehabilitation. Yes, there are some people who can achieve permanent sobriety after a single, seven-day detox programme. However, they are the rare exception to the rule. Most people require a combination of detox and psychotherapeutic treatments to overcome and prevent relapse. The combined treatment can take up to 12 weeks or longer.

The programme at Yorkshire is important inasmuch as it benefits both the inmates it serves and the prison housing them. The inmates benefit from a comprehensive treatment plan that gives them a real chance of changing their lives permanently. It benefits the prison by reducing recidivism rates related to relapse.

We sincerely hope other prison-based health teams learn from what Spectrum is doing in Yorkshire. It would be phenomenal to see other teams and their programmes earn the award and accreditation from the RCGP. The stronger the UK’s prisons are in dealing with substance abuse, the more likely these will be to achieve genuine rehabilitation.

In the meantime, we encourage you to get help for your substance abuse problem while there is still time to do so. You can get help through the NHS, a private drug rehab clinic or a number of charities and support groups. Do not wait until you do something you regret – something that irreparably harms your family or lands you in prison. Addiction is just not worth the price you pay.

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