- The Center for Disease and Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics published its first-ever report on healthcare services for U.S. inmates.
- Of the 45 states that participated in the survey, all said they screened inmates for mental health issues and suicide risk, but only 27 provided inpatient mental health services.
- All of the states also screened for tuberculosis, while 36 screened for hepatitis C. Of the latter, three screened all incoming patients for hepatitis C, 23 tested patients with clinical symptoms, five offered tests on an opt-out basis, and two others provided testing for inmates who opted in.
Most of the 45 states also tested at least some inmates for hepatitis A and B, cardiovascular risk, and traumatic brain injury, according to the report.
However, while about half of the states screened for TBI during the admissions process, the majority of admissions occurred in states that did not screen for the condition. “Research indicates that the incarcerated population reports TBI at higher rates than the general population (8-10), and that routine screening is needed to help identify TBI history and TBI-related issues,” the report says.
Two-thirds of the states used telemedicine for at least one specialty health or diagnostic service in conjunction with regular care. The most common reason was for mental health (62.2%) and heart-related (26.2%) services.
Thirty-five states offered on-site long-term nursing care and hospice care. Another nine states reported offering both on-site and off-site hospice care, although the latter was rarely used.
Karishma Chari, a health scientist with NCHS and lead author on the report, called the survey a “first step” in understanding prison healthcare.
More than 1.5 million people were incarcerated in U.S. prisons at the end of 2013 — 144,500 of them 55 and older. That number is expected to swell to 400,000 by 2030, creating more demand for healthcare services. In addition, inmates in general have higher rates of chronic and infectious diseases and mental disorders than the general population.