The facility-wide Interdisciplinary Patient Care program, announced today by Warden Orlando Harper, got underway earlier this week shortly after a university-led survey found high levels of dissatisfaction with healthcare services among people incarcerated within the jail.
The University of Pittsburgh School of Social Work conducted the survey of jail detainees in 2021 and published their findings in July. Of the respondents, 66% reported dissatisfaction with the medical care in the jail. Common themes from the open-ended responses included long wait times for medical care, issues receiving medications, not receiving proper treatments, and concerns over dental care.
The new Interdisciplinary Patient Care program has a healthcare team assigned to every level of the facility, instead of operating from a centralized location. This change is meant to ensure continuity of care, reduce wait times, and better coordinate clinical needs.
The teams are comprised of county-employed practitioners and Allegheny Health Network providers, per the contract between the jail and AHN. Each includes a physical health provider and a behavioral health provider from AHN, as well as a licensed practical nurse, a mental health specialist, and a correctional officer from the county.
“We pulled together staff to determine the most effective way to serve patients, to ensure access to care quickly and to make sure issues are resolved as soon as possible,” said Dr. Ashley Brinkman, the jail’s health services administrator. “We found very successful outcomes and positive feedback from both our staff and our patients.”
A pilot program had been underway since August, and its success resulted in a recent expansion to all levels of the facility, jail officials say.
The program is modeled like an outpatient healthcare office, where providers assess physical healthcare needs of individuals, according to a press release. When serious health concerns arise, individuals are seen in the jail’s medical clinic the same day. Administrators and staff members hold weekly meetings to provide feedback and assemble data.
The jail claims the program will streamline the way healthcare is delivered to increase speed and efficiency, maximize the use of resources, create stronger provider-patient relationships, and improve patient outcomes.
“We know that many individuals committed to the jail have not had regular access to healthcare, making the services provided at the jail even more important to their safety,” said Harper. “This new approach to correctional healthcare at our facility, shepherded by our healthcare staff, will benefit all those in our custody.”