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Healthier in Prison

About 12 million people move in and out of the nation's jails and prisons every year. These individuals also have high rates of infectious and chronic...
by | September 23, 2007
 

About 12 million people move in and out of the nation's jails and prisons every year. These individuals also have high rates of infectious and chronic diseases, substance abuse and mental illness. To combat these rates, the Hampden County Correctional Center in Massachusetts implemented a health-care program for its inmates more than seven years ago. After a few hiccups and criticisms, the 2000 Innovations in American Government Award-winner is finally being touted as a national model. The Public Health Model for Correctional Health Care treats inmates while they are locked up and after they are released. Upon entry, inmates receive a physical and mental exam; are tested for sexually transmitted diseases, tuberculosis and diabetes; and are offered a voluntary HIV test. At the same time, prisoners are assigned a physician and caseworker from one of the community health facilities contracted by the HCCC, which are assigned based on the prisoner's home Zip code and which help facilitate care on their release. The program not only saves money--only 10 percent of the HCCC's budget is spent on health care--but reduces the spread of diseases, catches illnesses early and reduces high-risk behavior. The jail also reports a low recidivism rate. The model has been implemented in Washington, D.C., and is being considered in Boston, Rhode Island, Vermont and Jacksonville, Fla. To learn more, click here.

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