The Orleans Parish Sheriff's Office (OPSO) is proud to announce its accreditation by the National Commission on Correctional Health Care (NCCHC).
The NCCHC has awarded the OPSO's Medical Division full accreditation through 2012, which applies to both medical and mental health services. The Commission praised the ability of the Sheriff's Office to provide quality medical care, while coping with the challenges presented during the post-Katrina recovery.
"Accreditation by the NCCHC is difficult to achieve. The Sheriff's Office is one of only three correctional facilities in Louisiana to obtain this certification of excellence," said Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman. "Our Medical Division was an instrumental part of this process, and this achievement demonstrates the hard work and dedication each of them puts forth every day to provide medical care for more than 3,300 inmates."
The National Commission on Correctional Health Care is dedicated to improving the quality of correctional health services and helping correctional facilities provide effective and efficient care. NCCHC grew out of a program begun at the American Medical Association in the 1970s. The standards of the NCCHC are recommended requirements for the proper management of a correctional health services delivery system. These standards have helped correctional facilities improve the health of their inmates and the communities to which they return, increase the efficiency of their health services delivery, strengthen their organizational effectiveness, and reduce their risk of adverse patient outcomes and legal judgments.
This accreditation verifies that the OPSO maintains an efficient, well-managed health care system, in accordance to national standards. The medical programs of the Sheriff's Office also benefit the health of the public, staff and inmates by assuring that incarcerated and released individuals receive quality and appropriate medical care.
"The hurricane's effect on the jail's infrastructure and personnel was significant, but the OPSO's Medical Division has been providing quality medical care since re-opening the jail post-Katrina," said Dr. Samuel Gore, medical director for the Orleans Parish Sheriff's Office. "The new (2008) NCCHC standards are rigorous and the transition has been challenging, but we've adapted and modified our processes appropriately to achieve 100 percent compliance with the NCCHC standards for accreditation. Through the cooperative efforts of the medical and security staff, we have been able to reach and maintain full compliance. Teamwork has been the key."
The Sheriff's Office processes approximately 63,000 arrestees a year and each individual receives a medical screening during the initial booking process at the Intake and Processing Center. During a single year, the Medical Division provides more than 58,000 appointment visits, performs 21,000 tests, and supports 650 specialty appointments.
The OPSO's Medical Division is staffed 24-hours a day, seven days a week by Board-certified physicians and a full nursing staff, with daily service to six clinics, specialty psychiatric and medical units, as well as the Intake and Processing Center. Each day, nurses visit every housing tier where Sick Call requests are gathered, patients triaged and evaluated, and prescribed medications administered.
Apart from the routine practice of primary care, the Sheriff's Office implemented new health services for inmates in 2009. The comprehensive sexually transmitted disease (STD) and HIV screening and treatment program was established for all incoming and current inmates. This project is run in partnership between the OPSO, the Louisiana Office of Public Health (OPH) and the City of New Orleans, as well as many other community agencies. At-risk individuals learn more about their health and a plan for treatment is created while they are in the custody of the OPSO for their return to the community.
Through these initiatives, the OPSO's Medical Division created a system to provide access to STD testing for all OPSO inmates. The program provides comprehensive testing and treatment for gonorrhea, chlamydia, syphilis and HIV soon after incarceration. Additionally, it provides pre- and post-test education and counseling through the OPSO's partnership with the OPH.
The goal of all OPSO health services is to provide quality health care that meets community standards. All inmates, current and new, benefit from these programs, and they are provided continuing education and other resources. As we rebuild, the Sheriff's Office will be able to introduce additional quality medical and social services in a secure environment. These programs and this accreditation are examples of what public agencies can achieve with prudent management of public resources.