1493358069019 - Health bosses plan for Waikeria Prison growth

Health bosses plan for Waikeria Prison growth

Increasing inmate numbers at Waikeria Prison will impact Waikato’s health services.

In October, the Government announced plans to boost prison capacity on existing prison sites.

Under the initiative, Waikeria will become the country’s largest prison. Its capacity will increase from 740 to 3000 beds.

The Government plans to complete a new 1500-bed facility at Waikeria by 2021.

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Waikeria is located south-east of Te Awamutu.

Derek Wright, Waikato DHB executive director of mental health and addictions, said the expansion of Waikeria would impact on the board’s services.

“With the increase in the prison muster, and certainly an increase in the remand population, the likelihood is we’ll see more people who require forensic services,” Wright told the board’s performance monitoring committee.

“It [the prison] will bring in a significant amount of staff as well and we’re going to see an increase in the demand on our health services generally.”

Expanding the prison is expected to create more than 500 jobs.

Also impacting the board’s planning around mental health and addictions services is the Substance Addiction (Compulsory Assessment and Treatment) Bill.

The bill provides for the compulsory treatment of people with severe substance addiction and is part of the Government’s Tackling Methamphetamine action plan.

Wright said the Health Ministry estimates 200 people could be affected by the bill.

“The view from people in the sector is we think that [number] will be much higher and what that means for some people is they will be compelled into treatment,” he said.

“There’s a similar act being used in Australia and in some of the states what they have seen is a significant increase in the number of people [being treated].”