ACP calls for improvements in health care for incarcerated patients

Adequately funded policies and procedures are needed to reduce health care disparities in access to, and quality of, health care for the U.S. jail and prison population, ACP said.

A recent policy position paper from ACP details recommendations to improve the health and well-being of individuals incarcerated in adult correctional facilities.

Health Care During Incarceration: A Policy Position Paper from the American College of Physicians” was written by the ACP Health and Public Policy Committee and was published Nov. 22 by Annals of Internal Medicine.

Its recommendations include adequate funding for, and timely access to, necessary health care services that are evidence-based and meet community standards. The paper also recommends measures to ensure adequate nutrition, opportunity for physical activity, smoke-free policies and smoking cessation interventions, and access to recommended preventive health services during incarceration.

ACP further calls for policies to adequately treat both chronic noncommunicable diseases and infectious diseases in incarcerated patients, including 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 said. ACP supports policies that promote the treatment of patients with substance use disorders as an alternative to incarceration.

The paper also details recommendations for specific populations within correctional facilities, including women, LGBTQ+ patients, aging patients, those living with disabilities or life-limiting illnesses, and immigrant populations. In addition, the paper said, health care needs must be included in planning for community re-entry when individuals are released from jail or prison. State Medicaid authorities should adopt policies that suspend rather than terminate enrollees who become incarcerated and support electronic, automated data exchange with correctional systems to facilitate state Medicaid enrollment or reinstatement, the paper said.

“ACP recognizes that reducing health disparities in the quality of or access to health care for incarcerated populations will take concerted efforts by policymakers, administrators, legislative authorities, the medical community, and society as a whole,” the authors wrote. “Achieving this goal will require funding and implementation of a national public policy agenda that recognizes the vital importance of correctional health care toward achieving health equity for all and promoting the public health of our communities.”