National Standards Help Jails Improve Health Care Services

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Posted Aug 28, 2014

Providing medical and mental health care that passes constitutional muster is essential for jails. Failure to do so presents great risks, including poor health outcomes, legal liability, wasted resources, staff dissatisfaction, public criticism, judicial oversight and more. Use of rigorously crafted national standards is essential to protect the jail, the taxpayer and the public health.

To help jails of all sizes implement quality health care delivery systems, the National Commission on Correctional Health Care has published a new edition of its Standards for Health Services in Jails. First introduced in 1976, the Standards cover every aspect of health care delivery in jails, addressing not only health care services, but also governance and administration, safety, personnel and training, and many other critical areas. As health care and legal expectations evolve, so too do the Standards, which are developed by experts in the fields of health, law and corrections. This new edition—the first in six years—has a stronger focus on quality and outcomes, with new recommendations for pharmaceutical operations, women’s health and more. The manual also provides clear compliance indicators that define expected outcomes and aid jails in self-assessment.

The Standards are the cornerstone of NCCHC’s health services accreditation program. Hundreds of jails nationwide participate in the program, including approximately one-third of the mega-jails. These jails work in collaboration with NCCHC experts to attain and maintain compliance with the Standards.

“As an advocate of accreditation, I see health care standards as both a prevention tool and a prophylactic for risks associated with operating a jail in 2014 America,” says Peter Perroncello, MS, CJM, CCHP, CCT. “Standards allows us to constantly assess our efforts and achieve our goals." Perroncello is a past president of the American Jail Association who serves as AJA’s liaison to the NCCHC board of directors. After a long career as a jail superintendent, he is now principal of Jail Management Consultants, LLC.

The first facility to undergo an accreditation survey under the 2014 Standards was the Salt Lake County (UT) Metro Jail. “We felt that the new standards address the quality of care more than previous standards,” says medical director Todd Wilcox, MD, MBA, “and we wanted to move to that version as soon as possible.”

In addition to the Standards, NCCHC operates professional certification programs and is the world’s largest provider of correctional health care education. Technical assistance services for a variety of jail health care needs are available through NCCHC Resources, Inc.

For more information about NCCHC and the Standards, please visit www.ncchc.org or call (773) 880-1460.