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

Published Date:

Southern Illinois University School of Medicine and the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) are partnering to provide health care for individuals at state correctional facilities.

“We are eager to offer a new approach to care for our corrections population,” said Rob Jeffreys, acting director of Corrections. “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.”

SIU’s Office of Correctional Medicine will initially focus on health care in four correctional facilities: Logan Correctional Center in Lincoln, and the state correctional centers in Pinckneyville, Shawnee and Vienna in southern Illinois.

The three-year pilot project will create SIU’s Office of Correctional Medicine under the leadership of Dawn DeFraties, executive director of the new office.

“SIU School of Medicine’s mission is 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,” said Dr. Jerry Kruse, dean and provost of SIU School of Medicine. “This partnership accomplishes two of our missions. We will care for this new patient population and provide services to help reintegrate them into their communities.”

The agreement is part of a national trend. State correctional organizations are more frequently partnering with academic institutions to improve health care delivery in correctional settings. “An institution like SIU School of Medicine can offer both exceptional health care and efficient financial stewardship to the taxpayers of Illinois,” DeFraties said.

Studies show that people with a history of incarceration face barriers to good health before, during and after incarceration. Incarcerated individuals have higher rates of chronic illness, infectious disease and serious mental illness than the general population. They often enter correctional facilities with multiple chronic illnesses and limited past accesses to the medical system; after incarceration, they face poorer future health outcomes and reduced life expectancy.

Incarceration also disproportionately affects low-income, Latino and Black individuals and communities, compounding preexisting disparities in health care access, outcomes and overall well-being.

The medical school’s first dean, Richard Moy, MD, proposed a partnership with the Department Corrections in the early 1980s, said Kruse. “Dr. Moy explored the idea of SIU working with Corrections during the school’s formative years. We are pleased that we can finally bring his vision to life,” he said.

“SIU Medicine’s model is driven by quality health care standards and our mission to improve the health of the region,” said DeFraties. “We will be building a foundation based on best practices and bringing these individuals a higher level of preventative care,” she said.

More than 1 in 20 Americans will be incarcerated in their lifetimes. Because 95 percent of incarcerated people return to their communities, physicians who never enter a correctional facility can still end up providing care for patients affected by incarceration. Understanding the specific health and social risks associated with incarceration allows medical providers to connect patients with necessary resources, counsel appropriately, and even reduce recidivism.

During the initial phase of the partnership in 2020, an SIU primary care physician and psychiatrist will work jointly with the IDOC Chief Medical Officer (CMO) 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 create and staff Access Delivery Impact Teams to provide peer support and reentry services to parolees. Evidence shows this also helps to decrease recidivism.

In Phase 2 of the partnership, SIU will expand its care to Shawnee and Vienna correctional centers in southern Illinois.

The institutions will add a medical director at each of the facilities at Pinckneyville, Shawnee and Vienna. The physician will be trained and board certified in primary care to manage and administer health care programming and create correctional health care centers of excellence.

Learn more about the Office of Correctional Medicine.

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