Otago prison nurses are the first in the country to gain
extra credentials in primary mental health.
All 10 nurses at the Otago Corrections Facility in Milburn
have been working under a new programme developed by the New
Zealand College of Mental Health Nurses.
It aims to ensure all prison nurses work to the college's
standards and practise at a level comparable to that of
nurses in the wider primary health sector.
The Department of Corrections hopes to implement the
programme in other New Zealand prisons.
It requires prison nurses to demonstrate their knowledge and
skills when working with inmates who have mental health
The jail, as a workplace, also has to meet standards for
providing professional support, access to supervision and
training, and policies and procedures that support good
Corrections said effective, early intervention for prisoners
with mental health needs was essential to reduce the impact
of their illness, improve recovery and aid rehabilitation.
Mental health problems are more prominent among the prison
population than in the wider community.
Otago Corrections Facility health centre manager Jillian
Thomson said the prison's nurses had found the programme
''They are gaining more resources to add to their toolboxes
around assessment and management.
Nurses are feeling more confident when they encounter
patients showing signs of mental illness and addiction
issues,'' she said.
Corrections Minister Anne Tolley said healthy prisoners were
more likely to engage in education and training programmes,
which helped their rehabilitation and ultimately reduced
''The Government has ensured that prisoner health, and
particularly mental health, is addressed and dealt with
Mrs Tolley said the introduction in 2012 of a mental health
screening process to identify prisoners' mental health needs
meant they were referred for appropriate care as soon as
She said in the past five years there had been a dramatic
reduction in the number of self-harm incidents that
threatened prisoners' lives, from 33 in the 2008-09 financial
year to seven in the 2012-13 financial year.
Drop in ranking
The Otago Corrections Facility has dropped in national prison
The Department of Corrections publishes a quarterly prison
performance table, indicating whether prisons are meeting
targets or need improvement in respect of security, internal
procedures and rehabilitation.
Between December 2012 and December 2013 the OCF's performance
It started in the ''needs improvement'' category, moved up to
''exceeding'', then dropped down to ''effective''.