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What Correctional Facilities Can Learn From The COVID19 Pandemic

A young troubled man sitting on a chair in a blurred background.

The COVID19 pandemic was an unprecedented public health emergency that caused significant challenges to providing care to correctional facilities.  Due to quarantine requirements and other necessary measure taken to prevent the spread of the pandemic, many facilities suddenly had a massive shortage of available mental health staff.  Vital mental health services were interrupted, causing widespread suffering for mentally ill people in jails and prisons.

The ability for a facility to make it through the pandemic largely depended on whether they had established telehealth services or were in the process of establishing services. Some jails had existing telehealth programs that were ramped up.  Others were in the process of developing telehealth programs.  Unfortunately, some facilities failed and still do not have a viable telehealth program.

There were several factors that predicted why some jails were successful while others failed to maintain essential services during the COVID19 pandemic.  Factors that predicted success or failure included the following:

  • Lean vs bloated bureaucratic systems
  • Responsiveness and communication between parties
  • Overall attitudes toward telehealth
  • Relationship between custody officers and healthcare staff
  • Budgets made available for telehealth
  • Type of technologies used

Correctional facilities can learn a lot from what happened in 2020.  The COVID19 pandemic is not the last time jails and prisons will face an emergency that interrupts the normal workflows and services.  Future challenges might unfortunately include biological, nuclear, or chemical attacks or accidents.

Fortunately, there is a lot that can be done to ensure the best possible outcome for the next big emergency.  Facilities are encouraged to develop a robust response plan that includes specialized disaster preparedness training that is organized with a robust telehealth program that can be nimble and responsive.  Such training is available through Orbit University.  Contact us today for more information!

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