If you are arrested and have to spend time at Centre County Correctional Facility, whether while waiting for trial or serving a sentence, there are a few things the jail has to provide while you are behind bars.
You have to be fed. You have to be clothed. You have to be safe — from others and from yourself. But you also have to be kept healthy.
According to Warden Richard Smith, inmates have all aspects of their medical care provided, from ongoing access to prescriptions they took at home to the mental health care that might be part of why they ended up in jail to the doctor’s visit they may have needed for years.
“I honestly believe most of our inmates leave in better shape than they came in,” Smith said.
Centre County subcontracts medical services to Prime Care Medical, a company that Smith, a former state Department of Corrections official, worked for before coming to CCCF.
Prime Care had been the county’s contractor for years before Smith came on board in 2012.
For just more than $670,000 a year, the company supplies all the prison’s medical needs — from the nurses, doctors, nurse practitioner, psychiatrist and dentist to drugs, medical equipment, consultation with outside specialists, lab tests and anything else that might be needed to keep inmates healthy.
Prime Care Vice President Todd Haskins said that sometimes, that can be a challenge.
“Some of these people don’t take good care of themselves,” he said.
For many, he said, the medical personnel they see at the jail may be the first they have seen in years.
For others, there may be serious conditions that have been diagnosed but gone untreated, including people whose unmedicated mental health issues might have contributed to the crimes that got them arrested.
Most care is provided in house. The jail, which opened in 2005, was designed with a suite of health services rooms, including isolation facilities for infectious patients, teleconferencing capabilities that allow inmates to meet with outside specialists like psychologists without leaving the building, and dentistry provisions.
But in emergencies, inmates are taken to Mount Nittany Medical Center, and when specialized treatment is required, they have been transported to doctors farther away.
An inmate died while in CCCF custody in June. He experienced problems at the jail, and was transported to Mount Nittany, where he was pronounced dead.
It was the first death at the new facility, and the first death of any inmate since 2001.
Haskins and Smith declined to speak about the specific inmate’s death, saying that required confidentiality about medical treatment extends to prisoners, even after they die.
They did say that the circumstances around an inmate death are reviewed by the prison and by Prime Care “extensively,” in a peer review process similar to a hospital’s mortality review, which is protected.
Both also said that transport to the hospital is always an option if corrections or medical personnel on site think it is the best move.
“Our rule of thumb is, if it’s something you would take your loved one to the (emergency room) for, that’s what you do,” Haskins said.
Prime Care provides medical services at 61 prison or detention facilities, including 30 in Pennsylvania.
In central Pennsylvania, some other counties also use Prime Care. Clinton County prison officials said they contract for all of their needs, like Centre County. Mifflin has a hybrid program, using its own in-house nursing staff, with Prime Care providing physician services.