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Logan Correctional Facility

Corrections, SIU Medicine partner to improve health care behind bars

Published Date:

Better Care Behind Bars

Corrections, SIU Medicine partner to improve health care delivery in state facilities

More than 76,000 Illinoisans live behind bars, and nearly 41,000 of those individuals call state prisons home. Like the more than 2.2 million justice-involved individuals in the United States, many suffer from a complex combination of anxiety, post-traumatic stress and a range of chronic health conditions, including hypertension and arthritis.

In an effort to improve health care delivery in correctional facilities and meet its mission, SIU School of Medicine is partnering with the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) to offer a “new approach to care” for justice-involved individuals.

SIU School of Medicine’s mission, to assist the people of central and southern Illinois in meeting their health care needs through education, patient care, research and service to the community, will be met in two ways, says Dr. Jerry Kruse, dean and provost of SIU School of Medicine. “Our history always has been one of social accountability, so we’ll do what’s best for the people of Illinois. We will care for this new patient population and provide services to help reintegrate them into their communities.”

Slated to officially begin in summer 2020, the three-year pilot project will initially provide health care in four correctional facilities: state correctional centers in Pinckneyville, Shawnee and Vienna, and the Logan Correctional Center in Lincoln.

During the first phase of the partnership in 2020, an SIU primary care physician and psychiatrist will work jointly with the IDOC chief medical officer to provide services to the correctional facilities in Pinckneyville. The school will also establish obstetrics and gynecology care at Logan Correctional Center in Lincoln.

Also within Phase 1, SIU Medicine will connect individuals with a medical home as well as provide peer support and reentry services to parolees. “After incarceration, they often face poorer health outcomes and reduced life expectancy, so we want to try to assure that the care we provide to our patients during incarceration continues during that time of particular vulnerability,” says Dawn DeFraties, Executive Director of the newly created Office of Correctional Medicine at SIU.

SIU School of Medicine’s and IDOC’s partnership reflects a national trend in which correctional facilities collaborate with academic medical centers to provide health care.

Similar agreements in Texas and Connecticut have resulted in:

  • more structured delivery of health care services using evidence-based medicine
  • greater access to subspecialists
  • improved clinical outcomes for chronic illnesses
  • cost savings for the state.

“As a medical school, we are better able to address social determinants of health through our current research, education and clinical care – things we already do quite well,” says DeFraties.

The partnership is also expected to yield unique benefits to SIU’s budding health care professionals.

“Correctional medicine is a rich environment for learning. By providing the opportunity for expanding learning and clinical opportunities, SIU School of Medicine will drive not only quality health care to our justice-involved population but will serve as a pipeline to producing qualified, board-certified correctional medicine physicians.”

IDOC recognizes the benefits for justice-involved individuals as well. “We are eager to offer a new approach to care for our corrections population,” says Rob Jeffreys, acting director of IDOC. “SIU School of Medicine has a reputation for quality medical care and innovation. This new partnership gives us the opportunity to explore a different health care model, one that’s more patient-centered and outcome-based.”

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