California Health Care Facility nears completion

Facility is being built on the grounds of the old CYA (California Youth Authority, now DJJ, Division of Juvenile Justice) property

There isn’t a whole lot of prison construction under way in California and hasn’t been for some time, despite the need. There is, however, a significant exception. That is the California Health Care Facility, located just outside of Stockton, CA. near the Stockton airport.

The facility is being built on the grounds of the old CYA (California Youth Authority, now DJJ, Division of Juvenile Justice) property. The new facility is about 1.2 million square feet and will house 1,722 inmates with significant mental health or physical health issues. If all goes well it will start receiving intake in July. So far, it is looking good for being completed on time.

The facility will have about 2,400 staff. A lot of them will be medical, and many of them will work for California Correctional Health Care Services. This is the receiver appointed by the federal court to administer the health care services within the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. Governor Jerry Brown has tried, repeatedly and (thus far) unsuccessfully, to wrest control of his prison system back from the feds.  

This is a huge undertaking. The hospital has more beds than the entire hospital system within San Joaquin County. It will effect medical hiring on a regional basis. The local community college, San Joaquin Delta College, has had a program running for over a year to help train psych techs and others just for this facility. The wages are still set by the federal courts, and are about 20% over the going rate. That, combined with the good professional environment expected in a new facility, should make the traditional problems with hiring medical staff for prisons somewhat less onerous.  

The hiring and money being put into the local economy should also benefit the local area to a large degree. Stockton was, and to some extent still is, the epicenter for the housing meltdown in the U.S.

Interestingly, the situation will also benefit the county hospital in San Joaquin County. Part of the deal on getting the new prison hospital up and approved was to throw some surgical business to the county hospital, which runs in the red about $1 million a week. They have recently completed a security wing at the prison for state inmates that require surgical procedures. Under the federal administration the state is no longer notoriously slow paying its medical bills and the extra income will be a huge help to the county operation. 

The warden is an old colleague of mine, Ron Rackley. He has a significant amount of been-there done-that time while in uniform. He is also a good systems and procedures person. He will, I expect, turn out to be an excellent choice for the job. 

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