R. Scott Chavez Facility of the Year Award

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This prestigious award is presented to one facility selected from among the nearly 500 prisons, jails and juvenile facilities accredited by NCCHC. The award is named after NCCHC’s longtime vice president.

Maricopa County Jail System, Phoenix, Arizona 2015 Facility of the Year

The Maricopa County Jail System is made up of six NCCHC-accredited jails; it has an average daily population of more than 8,000 and a health staff of more than 300. Despite those large numbers, Maricopa County Correctional Health Services is a study in efficiency, coordination, information-sharing and quality care, provided by a team of professionals who understand that every person housed in the jail system is their patient.

This coordinated care begins at intake, where everyone entering the system – that’s about 300 people a day – receives comprehensive health screening. While health providers assess new arrivals, a corrections officer keeps them informed of the intake process and answers questions. Each individual must receive medical approval for booking to begin, allowing the staff to provide continuity of care as well as make necessary referrals to mental health, substance abuse or acute care services.

Each jail is equipped with an outpatient clinic for sick call, acute medical needs, chronic care visits and wound care, as well as mental health services. A 60-bed infirmary is staffed by board-certified physicians who, according to one surveyor, exemplify the system’s remarkable degree of coordination: “With no notes in front of him, [the doctor] knew each patient’s case and was able to answer my questions without hesitation. These were not all his patients, but because of utilization review, grand rounds, shift reports and general information sharing, he was knowledgeable of all the patients.”

With between 700 and 800 seriously mentally ill inmates at any given time, the need for mental health services is considerable. Mental health and psychiatric care is available at each jail and in a 220-bed inpatient mental health unit staffed around-the-clock by psychiatrists and mental health professionals.

A state-of-the-art electronic health record helps tie the system together and facilitates coordination. Continuous quality improvement programs are well-developed; copies of the NCCHC Standards are in evidence throughout the jails and are frequently cited by staff. Surveyors were especially impressed by the quality of care and concern for the patients, leading one to say that Maricopa County’s health staff “would be the envy of the best hospitals in any city.”