Board Members Describe the Challenges—and Rewards—of Working With Incarcerated Youth

Posted Mar 2, 2016

A new article in AAP News highlights health care for juveniles in detention and confinement facilities. It features interviews with two NCCHC board members as well as two correctional health professionals who serve on NCCHC’s juvenile health committee (JHC).

Patricia Reams, MD, MPH, CCHP-P, spent 15 years working with confined youth and points to pervasive problems with mental illness, oral health, sexually transmitted disease and nutrition. Reams serves on NCCHC’s board as the liaison of the American Academy of Pediatrics and is its immediate past chair. A longtime surveyor for NCCHC’s accreditation program, she has visited countless adult and juvenile facilities.

The importance of continuity of care and medications is emphasized by Robert Morris, MD, CCHP-P, board liaison of the Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine. Also a JHC member, Morris says that providing a month’s supply of medication and a two-month prescription for use after release is cost-effective because it could prevent reoffending by youth. Morris chaired the task force that revised NCCHC’s 2015 Standards for Health Services in Juvenile Detention and Confinement Facilities.

JCH committee member Raymond Perry, MD, MSHS, CCHP, says that youth in the juvenile justice system often want to do the right thing, and desire guidance to help them make the right decisions. Pediatricians can serve a role as trusted counselors. However, more pediatricians need to assist with this population, Reams says, as many of the providers in these facilities are internists or family physicians.

This high-need patient population is a rewarding one to serve, the interviewees agree. “Every day, we have such an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of these youth in terms of their medical care. They are so appreciative,” says Paula Braverman, MD, who serves on the JHC. Braverman was lead author of the 2011 AAP policy statement Health Care for Youth in the Juvenile Justice System.

The AAP article is titled Behind Bars: Caring for Incarcerated Youths Rewarding Despite Hardships.