The Unseen Provider: Health Care in Our Jails – Watch the Video

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If you have ever visited a jail in this country, it’s an experience you don’t easily forget. Every movement is controlled, tensions run high, and there is a sense of claustrophobia – too many bodies in too small of a space – knowing that anything could happen at any moment to turn order into complete chaos.

Now imagine delivering healthcare to this population.

Each year, approximately 10 million unique individuals cycle through our country’s 3,300 jails. Eighty percent of detainees have substance abuse problems and 70% suffer from mental illness. And, when they’re not incarcerated, over half this population uses the local emergency room to receive care for their many chronic diseases. They have no other choice – 90% do not have health insurance.

The Community Oriented Correctional Health Services (COCHS) a non-profit organization that works to build partnerships between jails and community health care providers through funding by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation produced a short video “The Unseen Provider: Health Care in our Jails” highlighting the challenges and ways to improve care and reduce costs.

The reality is that inmates are cut off from the rest of the healthcare system once they enter corrections. During intake, jail staff – with no access to previous medical history must begin the expensive and timely task of assessing detainee’s health status. So expensive tests are duplicated, time is wasted, and security is compromised, while the cost is borne by the county government.

Providing connectivity between healthcare providers in the jail and the local healthcare community is essential to reducing cost and waste.

Typically, 45-50% of inmates in the Camden County Correctional Facility are Camden residents and therefore cycle through Camden’s hospitals for care. The Coalition is working with Camden County and the Correctional Facility to provide the jail staff with access to the Camden Health Information Exchange (HIE). With access to the HIE, the intake and screening process will be dramatically improved – costs will decrease and quality will increase among this vulnerable population.

According to Dr. Jeffrey Brenner, “Embracing patients who have been in jail is the right thing to do as a society and it’s the smart thing to do.”

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