The Department’s medical staff includes doctors, nurses, physician and nursing assistants, psychiatrists, psychologists and other clinicians who provide medical and mental health care at the Nashua Street Jail and the House of Correction.
A medical intake is performed on every pre–trial detainee and inmate who is placed in the Sheriff’s custody.
Medical care includes physicals, acute care, sick calls, dental care, eye care and mental health treatment. Persons in custody whose medical needs exceed the capabilities of the Department’s medical staff are transported to area hospitals as needed.
A large number of inmates and pre–trial detainees self–report a history of drug or alcohol abuse and need some type of treatment. In addition to Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous, the HOC has 390 substance abuse recovery beds for male and female inmates. Three of the programs are for male inmates – two are variable length of stay and one is fixed length of stay. All 150 beds in the female units are used for substance abuse recovery programming.
The percentage of chronic illnesses like asthma, hepatitis C, hepatitis D, HIV, Type II diabetes and hypertension in this population is consistently high. In partnership with the Department of Public Health, SCSD makes hepatitis and flu shots available to staff, inmates and pre–trial detainees. The Department also administers a mandatory HIV education program to all incoming detainees and inmates. Confidential HIV and STD testing, education and counseling is offered along with comprehensive HIV care.
To provide better on–site care, the Department also uses an electronic medical records system, provided by its health care vendor, and has two x–ray and two dialysis machines. This helps to eliminate the considerable expense of inmate transportation to and supervision within hospital facilities. The addition of a number of other on–site services – sutures, medications administered intravenously, physical therapy and the implementation of a web–based pharmacy ordering system that ensures timely delivery of much needed medications enhance the quality of medical care provided at the HOC.
The HOC also provides health and wellness programs for inmates. A professional nutritionist was consulted when the menu for the HOC was being created. Approximately 1.75 million meals are provided per year at the HOC and meet all the required daily standards for nutrition.
Mental Health Care
Many Suffolk County inmates experience some form of mental illness, ranging from mild personality disorders to major mental illnesses. Approximately 26% suffer from a major mental illness. The percentage of mental illness diagnosed in female inmates is approximately 36% higher than in male inmates. To meet the considerable incarceration challenges presented by these troubling numbers, the HOC has significantly increased inmate access to mental health services. Services are offered through the week from 8am to 9pm, on Saturdays and there is an on–call mental health professional available 24 hours a day. Cameras have also been installed in the infirmary to help ensure that inmates with acute mental health needs can be monitored at all times to ensure their safety.
Mental Health services are delivered by specialized forensic clinicians. Along with routine counseling and psychiatric services, the Department has increased its focus on group counseling and making sure mental health professionals coordinate service provision with social services staff. Additionally, the HOC mental health team has partnered with several local universities to offer competitive fellowships and internship opportunities to graduate level students in exchange for providing services to this population.
Both medical and mental health staff has coordinated with local community providers, the Department of Public Health, the Department of Mental Health, and the Boston Public Health Commission to ensure continuity of care for inmates once they are released. Partnerships with the Whittier Street Community Health Center and the South End Community Health Center allow for coordinated discharge planning. Whittier Street has been instrumental in enrolling or re–enrolling inmates in MassHealth through their “virtual gateway” system. This system allows staff to apply online for MassHealth membership on behalf of inmates in pre–release preparing to ensure that they continue to receive necessary medical and mental health care post–release.