Weekly Update: February 6, 2024
HHS: New Telehealth MOUD Rules In Corrections; The Hill: Dr. Rahul Gupta Op-ed: Don’t ignore the opioid epidemic battle in prison

COCHS WEEKLY UPDATE: February 06, 2024

Highlighted Stories

HHS: Biden-Harris Administration Marks Two Years of Advancements in HHS’ Overdose Prevention Strategy with New Actions to Treat Addiction and Save Lives
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) issued its final rule to permanently allow Opioid Treatment Programs (OTPs) to prescribe buprenorphine through telehealth without an in-person visit, if the provider determines adequate evaluation can be done through an audio-visual telehealth platform. The final rule allows more flexibility to offer clients take-home doses of methadone, up to a 7-day supply. The final rule also removes the requirement for people to have had an addiction to opioids for at least one year prior to admission to an OTP for medications for opioid use disorder (MOUD).

The Hill: We cannot ignore our prison population as we battle the opioid epidemic
Dr. Rahul Gupta and Tom Perez write: Medicaid coverage is a game-changer, offering a lifeline that ensures continuity of care upon release, giving people a fighting chance at a successful reentry into society. Today, there are approximately 2 million individuals in federal, state, local, tribal or territorial correctional facilities, with up to 65 percent of them battling a substance use disorder. Only a small portion receive the treatment they need. As a result, of the nearly 110,000 overdose deaths in 2021, up to 27,000 were people recently released from jail or prison. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services are helping states leverage Medicaid to treat addiction within correctional walls, bridging the gap for those who need help.

Medriva: Addressing Opioid Use Disorder in the Federal Prison System: Engaging Patients in Treatment
The federal prison system is confronting a substantial public health challenge: opioid use disorder. This issue is attracting attention, resulting in an initiative aimed at improving the quality of care. The approach emphasizes patient engagement in the treatment process, an element deemed crucial in the effective management of opioid use disorder. Part of the approach involves a partnership with telehealth providers. The involvement of telehealth services is expected to address some of the existing barriers to treatment, providing inmates with more consistent access to care.

Addiction Policy Forum: Hamilton County, OH Advances Treatment for Opioid Use Disorder in Jail
In Hamilton County, Ohio, 76% of the people who overdosed in 2021 had a history of incarceration at the Hamilton County Justice Center(HCJC). In response to this, the HCJC launched a medication for opioid use disorder (MOUD) program. Using a chronic-care approach, HCJC’s MOUD program provides incarcerated individuals with OUD with an opportunity to begin MOUD treatment during their incarceration or to continue their medications if previously inducted in the community.

WTTW: While Many in Illinois Prisons Need Medication for Opioid Use Disorders, Advocates Say System Slow to Provide
Cook County Jail, among several other county jails in Illinois, provides MOUD to incarcerated people. Where frustration comes from advocates — and local officials — is the limitations of the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) medication programming in prisons. Currently, IDOC only provides MOUD to new patients in the state’s two women-housing prisons: Decatur and Logan correctional centers — programs that started in late 2023. IDOC said it continues MOUD for people who come into facilities already taking the medication. That leaves the approximately 40 other IDOC facilities that house men without the ability to begin medication for new patients.

Data & Statistics

BJS: Data on Maternal Health and Pregnancy Outcomes from Prisons and Jails: Results from a Feasibility Study
BJS releases Data on Maternal Health and Pregnancy Outcomes from Prisons and Jails: Results from a Feasibility Study. This feasibility study examines the availability and quality of data, the respondent burden, and the challenges of collecting data on the health and health care of pregnant women in custody at the federal, state, local, and tribal levels.


BMC: Prevalence of eye and adnexal disorders among elderly inmates in Taiwan prisons
Prisoner health is a topic of significant importance; however, it has received limited attention in epidemiological studies, likely because of challenges in obtaining relevant data. Specifically, research on ocular disorders among elderly prisoners is lacking. Thus, the aim of this study was to evaluate the prevalence of disorders of the eye and adnexa among elderly prisoners.

BMC: Dementia care pathways in prisons – a comprehensive scoping review
The number of older people in prison is growing. As a result, there will also be more prisoners suffering from dementia. The support and management of this population is likely to present multiple challenges to the prison system. The growing number of older people has brought with it an increasing number of health and social care problems, reportedly affecting around 85% of older people in prison. It has been estimated that 8.1% of those over the age of 50 in prison have mild cognitive impairment or dementia, which is much higher than estimates for this age group in the general population.

Medical Training

BMJ: Why medical students should learn about prison health
Medical schools are shifting towards curriculums that place greater emphasis on health inequalities and the social determinants of health. Despite the growing prison population and the importance of prison health as a global public health issue, medical students receive inadequate education and training on this topic. They need a comprehensive understanding of the unique challenges the prison population faces to provide care to the millions of patients affected by imprisonment. People in prison are often denied the right to access healthcare, and they experience additional injustices because of failing prison infrastructures, unsafe living conditions, and shortages of medical resources.


CBS News: Colorado legal settlement would raise care and housing standards for trans women inmates
Trans women in Colorado have faced years of sexual harassment and often violence from staff and fellow incarcerated people. They were denied requests for safer housing options. A consent decree, expected to be finalized by early March, would establish two new voluntary housing units for incarcerated trans women, making Colorado the first state to offer a separate unit, according to attorneys in the case. The plan outlined in the agreement, which received preliminary approval last fall, would mandate the Colorado Department of Corrections pay a $2.15 million settlement to affected trans women.

State Roundup

AZ Central: 9 inmates injured after fight at Arizona state prison in Buckeye
Nine inmates were injured after an altercation on Saturday at Arizona State Prison Complex-Lewis in Buckeye, officials said. In 2022, The Arizona Republic reported the Lewis prison was so understaffed that one officer would sometimes be responsible for overseeing 200 or more prisoners during the day. During night shifts, that number could reach up to 400 prisoners per single officer.

KKTV: 9 hospitalized after 200 prisoners rush corrections officers in riot at Southern California prison
Correction officers and an incarcerated man were injured in a riot involving around 200 inmates in the recreational yard of a Southern California prison. The violence erupted as officers were escorting an inmate across the yard as part of a contraband investigation at Ironwood State Prison in Blythe, according to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. The inmate headbutted a staff member, and as he was being subdued, “approximately 200 incarcerated people on the yard rushed toward the officers attacking them with fists and rocks,” the department said in a statement.

New York Times: ‘Shame on Us’: How Maine Struggles to Handle Troubled Youth
Youth in Maine’s justice system come from all over the vast, rural state, with clusters from bigger cities like Portland and Lewiston. The state has struggled to curb forces that can imperil children. Its rates of child abuse and neglect have been worsening. The opioid epidemic hit hard. Intergenerational poverty runs deep. Maine has become a cautionary tale about the path to reform. The legislators passed a bill aimed at closing the state’s only youth prison and expanding programs with a better record of rehabilitating adolescents. But Gov. Janet Mills, a Democrat and longtime prosecutor, vetoed the June 2021 measure.

North Carolina
NC Health News: Shortage of correctional officers leaves prison staff stretched thin
In response to staffing gaps, Granville Correctional Institution has had to hold staff over past their shift or call others to come in to get to a number where people could work safely. Some beds at the prison also closed because there were not enough staff. These kinds of staffing shortages are typical across North Carolina’s prisons as the Department of Adult Correction grapples with persistent vacancies. Some prisons are more strained than others, with the correctional officer vacancy rate by facility ranging from a low of about 5 percent to as high as 69 percent.

KOCO: Oklahoma County judge orders state to pay daily fine until inmate is transferred to mental health facility
Inmates needing mental health help at the Oklahoma County Detention Center often wait months, sometimes even years, just to receive an evaluation and treatment. In October, an inmate at the jail, Zachary Whitaker, was deemed incompetent to stand trial. One month later, Judge Susan Stallings ordered Whitaker to be transported to a state facility for treatment. But as time passed, Whitaker stayed behind bars. Now, Stallings declared the Oklahoma State Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services was in contempt of her order.

Stillwater News Press: County Commissioners propose Mental Health Days for correctional workers
At a regular meeting of the Payne County Commissioners, the officials unanimously moved to create a policy proposal that will offer paid mental health days off for detention and correctional workers throughout the county. Payne County Sheriff Joe Harper was present at this meeting to vouch for the proposal, stating that jail and correctional workers have the highest rates of suicide in public sector professions in the State of Oklahoma because their working environment is stressful, has low pay and has people putting in overtime.

Washington State
Seattle Times: WA pays $9.9 million to woman who got terminal cancer in prison
Washington state has paid $9.9 million to settle a lawsuit by a woman whose cervical cancer grew terminal while she was incarcerated after prison doctors failed to adequately diagnose and treat the disease. In the latest of a series of deadly and expensive health care failures in state prisons, Paula Gardner, who was serving time for drug and burglary convictions, didn’t receive appropriate medical care for more than two years despite tests showing signs of possible cancer — and eventually a scan revealing a growth inside her uterus, according to her lawsuit.

New York Times: 10 Guards, 900 Inmates and the Dire Results of Warnings Ignored
Wisconsin’s top prison official wrote to the governor in 2015 with a dire warning: The state prisons were dangerously understaffed, imperiling both guards and inmates. Today, two of the state’s prisons have been in lockdown for months. Prison officials who initially blamed the restrictions on violent outbursts have since conceded that a shortage of guards has kept the lockdowns in place. Almost half the jobs for guards at the state’s maximum-security prisons were unfilled in mid-2023.

Prison Labor

AP: Prisoners in the US are part of a hidden workforce linked to hundreds of popular food brands
A hidden path to America’s dinner tables begins here, at an unlikely source – a former Southern slave plantation that is now the country’s largest maximum-security prison. Unmarked trucks packed with prison-raised cattle roll out of the Louisiana State Penitentiary, where men are sentenced to hard labor and forced to work, for pennies an hour or sometimes nothing at all. After rumbling down a country road to an auction house, the cows are bought by a local rancher and then followed by The Associated Press another 600 miles to a Texas slaughterhouse that feeds into the supply chains of giants like McDonald’s, Walmart and Cargill.


Corrections 1: N.C. governor launches new initiative to increase successful reentry after prison
North Carolina has joined a nascent nationwide effort to improve outcomes for more prisoners who return to society through an approach focused on education, health care and housing. Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, signed an executive order Monday that seeks to reduce recidivism through formal training and workforce tools for incarcerated people so more can succeed once they are freed.

Times Union: Schenectady County jail program trains inmates for health care work
The Schenectady County Correctional Facility has recently launched a program to train a group of inmates with skills for potential careers as health care professionals. Schenectady County Sheriff Dominic Dagostino agreed to host the program. In an interview, he said the program aligns with his department’s goal of ensuring inmates' success after reintegrating into society. In his roughly 15 years with the department, he said the jail has held other career-related courses, including teaching about the restaurant business, along with a cleaning and painting program.

NH Business Review: Prison, parole reform system deemed a setup for failure
A person in New Hampshire who violates the conditions of their parole is very often referred to by the New Hampshire Department of Corrections (DOC) as a “Community Failure.” For those seeking prison reform, terms like this can say more about a system that sets people up for failure by not addressing their needs — including substance misuse and mental health treatment — than the individual. According to data from the Council of State Governments Justice Center (CSG), 60% of New Hampshire’s prison admissions for parole and probation violations are due to supervision violations, despite data from the DOC showing the prison population has decreased.

Correctional Health Care Vendors

Corizon/YesCare/Tehum Care
Reuters: Sen. Warren urges DOJ to stop 'abusive' prison health bankruptcy
U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts on Thursday called for the U.S. Department of Justice to do more to stop what she called Corizon Health's "abusive tactics" in bankruptcy. Corizon, a prison healthcare contractor, placed a newly created affiliate, Tehum Care, into bankruptcy in Houston in February 2023 in order to avoid accountability for its "alarming record of patient neglect and malpractice" in prisons across the U.S., Warren said in her letter to DOJ's bankruptcy watchdog, the Office of the U.S. Trustee.

Times Herald: Jail health care provider asks judge to dismiss lawsuit
A health care provider for the St. Clair County jail is relying on a controversial legal strategy to argue for the dismissal of a lawsuit by a former inmate. CHS TX Inc. argues Lisa Brown, who says in her lawsuit that her neck was broken while she was incarcerated in 2021, has no case against them because it is a separate company from Corizon Health, the company St. Clair County contracted with to provide medical care for inmates. Whether Corizon Health and CHS TX are separate companies is the subject not only of Brown's lawsuit, but also several cases nationwide brought by imprisoned people who say they received poor medical care at facilities contracted with Corizon Health.

Courier Journal: Company in charge of Louisville jail health care when inmates died is back, with a new name
Louisville Mayor Craig Greenberg in April announced a search for a new health care provider for the city’s jail as part of a series of “seriously needed reforms” at Metro Corrections. Nearly eight months after that press conference, the city made its pick: a company called YesCare. Like Wellpath, YesCare is a giant in the corrections medical care industry. Like Wellpath, it is based in Tennessee. YesCare formed after its predecessor, amid mounting lawsuits alleging substandard prison care, restructured in 2022 in a bankruptcy move called the “Texas Two-Step.”

WBTV: Mecklenburg Co. Jail loses health care provider
The Mecklenburg County jail’s longtime health services provider, Wellpath, is terminating its contract. Wellpath filed for termination on January 19. The news comes after three people have died at the jail between December 14, 2023 and January 20, 2024. Those deaths are still under investigation, as is customary, by the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services. The company, previously known as Correct Care Solutions, has serviced the jail since 2008.

Jax Tdy: Lawsuit blames jail for inmate’s death after missing medication
Jacksonville Sheriff T.K. Waters faces a new federal lawsuit filed this week by the family of a man who died after a short stint in Duval County’s jail. The lawsuit accuses the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office of violating the constitutional rights of 54-year-old Dexter Barry after denying him medication for a heart transplant. Jail records show that Barry never got his medication. According to Armor Correctional Health Services, which ran the jail’s medical care at the time, it would take a minimum of 48 hours to get the medicine. By then, Barry had gone two days without his medication and bonded out of the jail.