National Conference on Correctional Health Care: Improving prison quality

The mission of the NCCHC is to improve the quality of health care in jails, prisons and juvenile confinement facilities


By Bob Hood

The National Conference on Correctional Health Care (NCCHC) held their Annual Training Conference, October 15 through 19 in Baltimore, MD. NCCHC's origins date to the early 1970s, when an American Medical Association study on jails found inadequate, disorganized health services and a lack of national standards.

The conference was held in conjunction with National Correctional Health Profession Week. With its exceptional lineup of educational sessions, abundant networking opportunities and the best commercial exhibition in this field, the conference attracted over 1800 correctional healthcare professionals.

The mission of the National Commission on Correctional Health Care is to improve the quality of health care in jails, prisons and juvenile confinement facilities. The conference theme, "Historic Times, Extraordinary Solutions," was emphasized throughout the week.

Participants chose from nearly 100 concurrent sessions, and approximately 115 exhibitors offered products and services in areas such as diagnostic equipment, electronic health records, medical supplies, telemedicine, and emergency preparedness.

Keynote address
Dr. Fred Osher, Director of Health Systems and Health Services Policy at the Council of State Governments Justice Center in Maryland, provided the keynote address on "Reducing the Overrepresentation of Persons with Mental Illnesses in Corrections." For three decades he led initiatives aimed at effective services for incarcerated and/or homeless persons with co-occurring disorders.

Most inspiring workshop
Dr. Dean Aufderheide, Director of Mental Health Services, Florida Department of Corrections, held a standing room only session on a journey inside the mysterious mind of the psychopath. The workshop explored the origin and evolution of the concept of psychopath while peeling back the layers of criminal thinking to discover how and why psychopaths see the world the way they do.

Genetic and environmental influences on psychopath behaviors were investigated. Using a case study and videotaped interviews of psychopaths, participants were able to identify the unique signs, symptoms and distinct traits of the psychopathic personality.

The following tips for dealing with psychopathic offenders were provided:
• Know What You Are Dealing With: Everyone, including the experts, can be taken in, manipulated, and conned. Your best defense is to understand the nature of these predators. Never share personal information about staff or yourself with an inmate. Remember, if crime was the job description, the psychopath would be the perfect applicant.

• Know Yourself: Psychopaths are extremely skilled at detecting and ruthlessly exploiting your weak spots. If you are a sucker for flattery, feel unappreciated, feel lonely or alone, you are vulnerable. When asked how he selected his victims, Danny Rolling, the Gainesville serial murderer replied, "Predators look for vulnerabilities."

Dr. Aufderheide advises the best defense is to understand what your weak spots are and to be extremely wary of any inmate who zeros in on them. Self-examination and frank discussions with a trusted colleague will be a helpful defense against the psychopath's ability to distort our reality.

Top 12 workshops
Although many great topics were presented, most participants showed interest in these sessions:
• Suicidal and Nonsuicidal Self-Injury: Management of an At-Risk Population
• Emergency Chemical Restraint for Violent and Agitated Inmates
• Use of Restraints: Lessening Liability in the Courtroom
• Structured Decompression and Desocialization of the Long-Term Segregated
• Intensive Medical Management: Medical Restraint and Forced Medication
• Setting Up An Involuntary Antipsychotic Administration Mechanism
• Incarcerated Veterans and Homelessness Prevention
• Top Tips for Reducing Your Pharmaceuticals Budget
• A Reentry Health Center for DC Residents
• What's New for Juvenile Facilities
• New Paradigms for Hepatitis Prevention and Treatment in Jails and Prisons
• A Road Map to the Management of Diabetes in HIV- Positive Individuals

Summary
Correctional healthcare professionals from throughout the United States gathered to celebrate their successes and plan for future challenges. Additional information concerning NCCHC can be obtained at www.ncchc.org.

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