Since 2008, the provision of healthcare services in prisons has been the responsibility of the Italian regions, under the overall coordination of the Ministry of Health. In 2017, approximately one quarter of inmates had a diagnosed drug-related disorder, a proportion that has remained stable over the years.
The Guidelines for National Health Service Interventions for the Protection of the Health of Persons Incarcerated or Institutionalised within the Prison System and Minors Subject to Criminal Proceedings and Penalties identify strategies for prevention and care, as well as organisational models for the restructuring of existing prison services to meet the same essential levels of care that have been adopted for the general population. These guidelines reiterate that the public drug dependency service units should provide these services inside institutions, in collaboration with the local health authorities (ASL) and the network of health and social services engaged in demand reduction. To implement the guidelines, cooperation between the Department of Prison Administration with the Regions and ASL has been enhanced.
In the case of drug-dependent prisoners, the guidelines recommend referring the person either to special sections with a less restrictive approach and a specific drug treatment programme or to special hospital units for withdrawal treatment.