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Jail inquest hears from expert health panel

A doctor who specializes in addictions says she was discouraged from providing opioid withdrawal treatment to inmates in the Barton jail. She was part of an expert health panel today at the inquest looking into the drug overdose deaths.“I did my best but I found lots of challenges.” said Dr. Lori Regenstreif.Dr. Regenstreif specializes in Addictions Medicine and Mental Healthcare and worked in the Barton jail for 15 months hoping she could help inmates.“The majority of people with opioid use disorders were not being treated while they were in.”But says she was discouraged from providing opioid withdrawal treatment, telling the inquest she was told” we don’t do things that way here” and that she was upsetting the status quo.“There’s a real clash of cultures there. Theres a clash between the culture of corrections which says you are here because you are bad and if you have an addiction that’s just a bad thing, and you are just going to wait your time out here and off you go again.”And when it comes to inmate healthcare the correctional system has the power.“It’s not set up as a healthcare system, its set up like a giant police station where theres a lot of restrictions on what you can do.”She wasn’t allowed to prescribe methadone – the opioid addiction treatment- because only the jail’s psychiatrist can.The inquest has heard that 38-year old Marty Tykoliz, who was doing drugs openly in the jail just hours before he overdosed, was denied access to the methadone program two months before his death.Today’s expert health panel which included Hamilton’s medical officer of health, a public health nurse and another doctor who works in the jail pointed out there needs to be more of a focus on harm reduction and treating addictions.“A lot of them are just very unwell people and we just aren’t meeting their needs and I think we are foolish to think we are going to get at that problem by stopping fentanyl from getting into the jail because I don’t think we are going to do that.”Dr. Regenstreif says despite all her efforts there she didn’t feel like she had much power to effect change. She was eventually told she was no longer needed at the jailSince this inquest began the policy that limited inmates’ access to the methadone treatment program was updated, giving inmates who are not already prescribed methadone before their arrest access the treatment while in the jail. It also allows doctors to prescribe suboxone – another opioid addiction treatment -which we heard today is considered safer than methadone.But no indication when this will be implemented.

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