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Department of Corrections Institutes Community-Oriented Healthcare for Inmates

Monday, October 2, 2006

(Washington, DC) DC Department of Corrections Director Devon Brown announced that on October 1, 2006, the DC Department of Corrections entered in partnership with Unity Health Care to institute an innovative model of community-oriented healthcare services for individuals detained at the District’s detention facilities. Under this new model, one entity will be responsible for managing District inmates through the full healthcare continuum, including primary care, specialty care, emergency care and hospital care. Unity Health Care, the District’s largest federally qualified health center, will provide this service to detainees housed at the Central Detention Facility (DC Jail) and Correctional Treatment Facility (CTF) and connect them to a Unity health center in the community for continued care when they are released from custody. 

The Department of Corrections is legally responsible for providing medical, dental and mental health services to its detention population. Of the more than 19,000 individuals processed through the District of Columbia correctional system each year; approximately 3,500 are detained daily at the DC Jail and CTF. Many who enter the District’s detention system have not consistently sought health services outside of acute episodes, and many are incarcerated with a host of communicable and contagious illnesses. This new health care model will improve health services delivery for incarcerated persons while simultaneously improving health outcomes District-wide, by aligning the goals of public safety and public health. Unity Health Care teams will practice on-site at the jail to identify and develop treatment plans for diagnosed diseases and at community-based health centers to ensure that each released inmate has a full health care plan and a medical appointment at a community health center.

This novel approach to healthcare for inmates reflects the vital and increasing role of corrections in contributing to the vibrancy of our communities," said Brown. "The District's detention system, like other correctional systems nationally, has now become a major provider of basic human services. As such, we not only play a critical role in ensuring public safety but also in promoting public health. Over the past several months we have worked with Unity Health Care, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Community-Oriented Correctional Health Services (COCHS) to put in place a model that recognizes that public safety and public health are truly intertwining concepts. We all benefit when those who enter jail walls return to our communities better people in all respects, including health."

“This is an exciting new opportunity for Unity and fits squarely with our mission to provide care for the District’s medically underserved,” said Unity Health Care’s Chief Executive Officer Vincent A. Keane.  “Many of the inmates in the District’s correctional facilities are already our patients.  Now we can make sure they get the care they need during their time in jail and after they get out.”
                                                          
This community-oriented model of inmate healthcare was established in Hampden County, Massachusetts in 1992. The model views inmates as temporarily displaced members of the community and utilizes community health centers as the critical link to care both in-and-out of jail.
In January, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation approved a three-year, $7.5 million dollar grant to replicate the successful Hampden County model in communities across the country.  The Foundation established and funded COCHS to provide technical assistance and consulting services to corrections and community health centers across the country seeking to replicate this public health model in their communities.  The District is the first jurisdiction to benefit from tis grant.

 

About the Department of Corrections

The Department of Corrections is a major component of the District's public safety cluster. The Department of Corrections operates the Central Detention Facility (DC Jail) with a rated capacity of 2,498. The DC Jail serves as the primary point of entry for everyone who has been arraigned and committed for incarceration by the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, and the US District Court, including detainment by the authority of the United States Marshals Service. The DC Jail also serves as the District’s primary correctional institution for pretrial detainees, misdemeanants, unsentenced felons, as well as convicted and sentenced felons and misdemeanants pending transfer to another facility, jurisdiction or release. In July 2002, the United States District Court for the District of Columbia vacated the population capacity limit at the DC Jail imposed in the 1985 Campbell v. McGruder court ruling.

District inmates are also housed at the Correctional Treatment Facility administered by the Corrections Corporation of America in Southeast, Washington. This facility is operated under an exclusive contract to the DC Department of Corrections. The department has contracts with four private and independently operated halfway houses. The US District Court for DC and the Superior Court of DC place pretrial offenders and sentenced misdemeanants in halfway houses as an alternative to incarceration.

With the passage of the National Capital Revitalization and Self-Government Improvement Act of 1997, the Department of Corrections transferred the sentenced felon population formerly housed at the Lorton Correctional Complex to the Federal Bureau of Prisons and discontinued operations there in December 2001.

 

About Unity Health Care

Unity Health Care provides healthcare to uninsured, underinsured, and homeless men, women and children in the District of Columbia. Founded in 1985, it is the fourth largest community health center network in the country, offering a full range of health services regardless of patients’ ability to pay. Unity operates 30 neighborhood facilities, including 11 community-based health centers, 10 medical sites in homeless shelters, and 3 specialized health centers. Unity’s Mobile outreach vans travel throughout the city, providing care to homeless persons and “hard to reach” drug abusers. In 2005, Unity provided care to more than 64,000 people, who accessed services more than 291,000 times. A Federally Qualified Health Center, Unity is a 501(c)(3) organization funded in part by the Federal Bureau of Primary Health Care.

 

About the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation focuses on the pressing health and health care issues facing our country. As the nation's largest philanthropy devoted exclusively to improving the health of all Americans, the Foundation works with a diverse group of organizations and individuals to identify solutions and achieve comprehensive, meaningful and timely change. For more than 30 years the Foundation has brought experience, commitment, and a rigorous, balanced approach to the problems that affect the health and health care of those it serves.

 

About Community-Oriented Correctional Health Services

Community-Oriented Correctional Health Services (COCHS) provides assistance to communities seeking to reform health care for inmates in jails. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation supports COCHS through a three-year, $7.4 million grant to provide technical assistance and consulting services to communities across the country seeking to implement a new inmate health care model based on the successful approach established in Hampden County, Mass.