Adequately funded policies and procedures are needed to reduce health care disparities in access to and the quality of health care for the U.S. jail and prison population says the American College of Physicians (ACP) in a new policy paper published today in the Annals of Internal Medicine. Health Care During Incarceration: A Policy Position Paper of the American College of Physicians details recommendations to improve the health and wellbeing of individuals incarcerated in adult correctional facilities.
ACP has a long-standing commitment to improving the health of all Americans and opposes any form of discrimination in the delivery of health care services, which extends to our patients who are incarcerated. Many incarcerated patients are dealing with significant unmet health care needs that can include chronic medical conditions, infectious diseases, substance use disorders and mental health conditions. We need to ensure that these patients receive the health care services they need.”
Ryan D. Mire, MD, MACP, President, ACP
ACP’s recommendations include adequate funding for and timely access to necessary health care services that are evidence-based and meet community standards. They also recommend measures to ensure adequate nutrition; opportunity for physical activity; smoke-free policies and smoking cessation interventions; and access to recommended preventive health services. ACP further calls for policies to adequately treat both chronic noncommunicable diseases and infectious diseases. This should include infectious disease prevention and control programs developed with public health authorities. In addition, all persons entering correctional facilities should be screened for substance use disorders and behavioral health conditions and provided with treatment if necessary. ACP also supports policies that promote the treatment of patients with substance use disorders as an alternative incarceration.
The paper also details recommendations for population segments within correctional facilities. This includes recommendations for how to better meet the needs of incarcerated women; LGBTQ+ patients; aging patients and those living with disabilities or life-limiting illnesses; and immigrant populations.
Lastly, the paper details how health care needs must be included in community re-entry planning for individuals who are released from jail or prison, so that they are able to continue to access health care and social services once they return to their communities. ACP specifically makes recommendations for policies that would help to facilitate or reinstate state Medicaid enrollment.
“Incarceration can negatively affect the health and well-being of millions of patients, their families and communities across America,” concluded Dr. Mire. “As a society, we need to fund and implement public policies that ensure access to medically necessary health care services during incarceration. ACP recognizes the vital importance of correctional health care toward achieving health equity for all and promoting the public health of our communities.”