More drug treatment, enforcement needed in jails, Saskatoon inquest hears

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Drug use and addictions are rampant at the Saskatoon Correctional Centre, but there is only one addictions counsellor to help more than 450 inmates, a coroner's inquest heard Monday.

The inquest, which began at the Saskatoon Inn Monday, is being held to determine the facts surrounding the death of 43-year-old Donald Blair at the jail on Nov. 7, 2018.

On Monday, nurse Chelsey Berube testified that she and other nurses were called to Blair's cell on that day. They arrived less than two minutes later and found him lying fully clothed on his back in his bed.

"He was quite blue in the face. He didn't look responsive," Berube told the inquest.

Nurses administered CPR and a drug designed to reverse the effects of an overdose, but Blair could not be revived, Berube said.

A fellow former inmate testified he had taken heroin in the bathroom with Blair and that drugs were everywhere.

"It's readily available any time. It's always there," Troy Schreiner said.

Berube said there is only one addiction counsellor for the roughly 450 inmates. She said more services, both in the jail and in the community, would help inmates.

"Resources are limited here and in the community. You do what you can," Berube said.

Leonard Dyck, a correctional centre "security intelligence officer" with 35 years experience, also testified. He listed several ways drugs are smuggled into the jails — through visitors or inside body cavities, by hoarding prescription medications, or by throwing them over the jail fence.

"There's always drugs within the correctional centre," Dyck said.

He said there are no drug sniffing dogs on site and a drug detection scanner has not functioned properly at all times. He said any further tools would be helpful.

Asked what would help decrease the addiction problem inside the jail walls, Schreiner replied, "Keep the drugs out."

The inquest is scheduled to resume Tuesday and run until at least Wednesday.

Inquests are supposed to be called for anyone who dies in custody of anything other than natural causes. The purpose of an inquest is to establish who died, when and where that person died and the medical cause of death.