The COVID-19 pandemic has created an unprecedented challenge to the public health of our nation. People incarcerated in our nation’s 5,000 jails and prisons face particular threat, and their vulnerability may impact the success of our overall national response. To address this uncharted challenge, COCHS is dedicating this page to available resources and proposals of COCHS and partner organizations.
( COCHS is aware that stakeholders from the different backgrounds of corrections, healthcare, and policy may be unfamiliar with terminology from each other's area of expertise. In 2012 COCHS released a glossary, Speaking the Same Language: Criminal Justice, Health Care, and Information Technology, which might be helpful in clarifying technical terms.)
The national response to the COVID-19 pandemic is exposing life-threatening gaps in the health system’s response for people who are in involved in the criminal justice system. There are large and immediate health risks to people who are incarcerated and correctional officers. In Establishing State and Federal Correctional Health Coordinators to respond to the COVID-19 Pandemic, COCHS proposes that states should establish correctional health coordinators to coordinate the emergency response for incarcerated people.
We believe that the creation of a Correctional HealthCoordinator with state and federal coordinating authority could cut across silos. States could move forward immediately to create a Correctional Health Coordinator through funding available in the CARES Act, but new coronavirus relief legislation could establish a leadership role and grant program in HHS that funds new state-level correctional health coordinators.
As COVID-19 spreads throughout correctional facilities, there will be an urgent need for inpatient care of patients who develop serious complications. Over half of incarcerated people have a serious physical or behavioral health problem and many are over 60 years old.
Policymakers have specific tools available to them during a National Emergency declared by the president. Under section 1135 of the Social Security Act, the Health and Human Services Secretary may temporarily waive certain Medicare, Medicaid and CHIP requirements at the request of states.
On March 20, COCHS disseminated a policy brief (Addressing the Needs of Justice-Involved People During the COVID-19 Pandemic: An 1135 Waiver Approach) suggesting an 1135 waiver that provides guidance on how such waivers may offer potential solutions to the issue of accessing inpatient levels of care for incarcerated patients.
COCHS & VERA COVID-19 GuidanceIn partnership with the Vera Institute of Justice, COCHS and Vera have released five briefs that provide guidance to government actors on how they should respond to the Coronavirus to keep justice-involved people, system practitioners, and our communities healthy and safe.
Dr. Homer Venters, the President of COCHS: COVID-19 in Corrections
In reference to COVID-19, Dr. Homer Venters has been asked by multiple sources to give his advice on how healthcare providers and correctional professionals could best respond to the pandemic.
Resources from COCHS & Partner Organizations
COCHS continuously tracks resources available and proposals advanced by partner organizations. Below are links to some of our partners' important contributions in confronting this pandemic.