By Roxanne Squires
WETHERSFIELD, Conn.— For over two decades, the University of Connecticut system had been in charge of the physical and mental health care needs of the inmates throughout the Constitution State in an agreement between the Connecticut Department of Correction (DOC) and UConn’s Correctional Managed Health Care unit. The partnership first began in November 1997, according to U.S. News and World Report, and carrying with it an annual price tag of some $140 million.
However, U.S. News and World Report found that a recent audit conducted of UConn Health discovered that the university system was delivering substandard care, which the auditors said posed a risk to the inmates’ health and, the report found, could potentially lead to litigation against Hartford.
Thus, early in July, the commissioner of Connecticut’s prison system, Scott Semple, declared that his department will be taking over the health care of inmates throughout the state. The commissioner has promised both sweeping reform as well as drastically improved results.
“As you can well imagine, this transition of services is an extremely complex and multifaceted undertaking,” Semple said in a statement sent to Correctional News from the Department of Correction offices in Wethersfield. “Fortunately, many individuals within the DOC—in concert with management from UCONN Health—have worked diligently to plan and prepare for every foreseeable eventuality of the changeover.”
Semple said that some of the measures he seeks to implement include more timely delivery of care and “integration” with the Department of Social Services and community providers for a better continuum “of care upon release.”
Furthermore, the commissioner believes this mission can be accomplished with a cost savings for taxpayers thrown in for good measure.
“Ever mindful of our budgetary obligations, the agency will immediately implement quality assurance practices to appropriately account for expenditures and service needs,” Semple said.
The article by U.S. News & Report said that the new plan would allow the commission to put more funds toward “priority areas” like inmate counseling for substance abuse problems.
“With any undertaking of this magnitude, some initial unforeseen challenges are to be expected,” Semple said. “Let me reassure you that providing quality care to the offender population will remain a primary focus of this agency.”
Semple added that he hopes to have any “initial glitches” in the takeover of inmate health care from UConn to be worked out by year’s end, while at the same time working on the DOC’s “goal of improving upon the offender health care delivery process on a number of fronts.
“As we embark on this next chapter of the department’s history, thanks to the dedicated men and women who [make up] this agency, I am confident that the new offender health care delivery model will result in better health outcomes, more timely delivery and a safer workplace for employees,” Semple continued. “Not to mention the additional benefit of reduced costs to the state.”