ACA updates jail health care standards.
Developing new health care standards that reflect current trends and practices has also been a major ACA initiative and has been included in the development of the draft version of the Performance-Based Standards for Adult Local Detention Facilities, Fourth Edition. This manual contains the latest revisions of the performance-based health care standards for jails. For those agencies already accredited, this is an opportunity to improve health care delivery while developing a data collection system that will enhance current management functions. For agencies that are not accredited, ACA has added the option of independent health care accreditation for jails using standards, expected practices and outcome measures contained within the draft fourth edition that pertain to the health and safety of offenders and staff. The independent health care accreditation is available as a field-test.
There are numerous challenges facing health care professionals in the jail setting. The inmate population is often from a socioeconomic environment that is not conductive to adequate, age-appropriate health care, and in most cases, the health care provided during incarceration is all that is available to them. There is a significantly greater number of occurrences of infectious disease and mental health disorders among incarcerated populations, many going undetected and untreated. In addition, the rapid turnover makes the identification, prevention and medical management of jail inmates extremely risky and difficult. The new standards, expected practices and outcome measures included in the new jail manuals are designed to assist agencies with the difficult challenges of providing health care services to an incarcerated population. Issues such as health screening, infection control, mental health, chronic care and medication administration are addressed with clear guidelines that provide the framework for an effective health care program.
ACA is seeking agencies willing to participate in the field-testing of either or both manuals. The field-tests are conducted as a normal audit at a greatly reduced rate, and participating agencies will have the opportunity to provide the Standards Committee with recommendations that will shape the future of jail standards.
Health Care Consultants
Providing health care in a jail environment is unlike any other form of medical care in the United States today. The skills, tenacity and autonomy required in the jail setting form highly trained and independent health care professionals. ACA is looking for high-energy health care professionals from the jail community to act as consultants in the accreditation process. Candidates are required to have three years of correctional health care experience at a supervisory level and be an ACA member. ACA's consultants are essential to the integrity accuracy and acceptance of the accreditation process.
Consultants are trained and employed as independent consultants by ACA to provide assistance to agencies working toward accreditation, conducting on-site audits and monitoring to ensure the maintenance of the conditions required for accreditation. Teams of consultants, referred to as visiting committees, are formed to conduct standard compliance audits. A correctional health care professional is included on most visiting committees to ensure that facilities are afforded the benefit of experienced and knowledgeable auditors. Jail professionals are used strictly in jail audits and are responsible for the onsite validation of compliance with ACA standards. They are the eyes and ears of the Commission on Accreditation for Corrections. Being a consultant is a rewarding and challenging experience that will provide an opportunity for expanding knowledge and experience, while helping others do the same.
Agencies wishing to be on the cutting edge of current correctional practice by participating in one of the field-tests are asked to contact ACA's Standards and Accreditation Department at (301) 918-1835. In addition, to participate in ACA's consultant program, contact Kathleen McKim at (301) 918-1848.
Kathleen McKim, RN, is administrator of health care programs in the American Correctional Association's Standards and Accreditation Department.