Wednesday, Aug. 22, 2007

Correctional facilities earn top award

Clarksburg, Rockville detention centers honored nationally for health care services

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Montgomery County’s jails received the top national honor for their health care services from among more than 500 correctional facilities across the nation.

The National Commission on Correctional Health Care (NCCHC) selected the Montgomery County Correctional Facility in Clarksburg and the Detention Center in Rockville as Facility of the Year one month after they scored 100 percent on the commission’s 72 Standards for Health Services in Jails.

‘‘We’ve received accreditation numerous times, but never the Facility of the Year award, which is a unique honor in an entire career in this field,” said Arthur M. Wallenstein, director of the county’s Department of Correction and Rehabilitation.

The standards include intake screening, facility hygiene, psychiatric review, operation of a healthcare unit, implementation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and other healthcare operations within the jails.

The commission’s five-member review committee noted the quality of the facilities’ staff and programs addressing patient needs.

‘‘In the 30 years since it first received health services accreditation from NCCHC, Montgomery County’s Correctional Facility and Detention Center has achieved impressive accomplishments,” National Commission on Correctional Health Care President Edward Harrison said in a statement.

Wallenstein said health care is an important issue in jails across the nation because many prisoners enter the jails with physical and mental health problems.

‘‘Many have never received preventive care and often their life on the streets is characterized by a virtual absence of any healthcare interventions,” Wallenstein said.

It is a challenge for correctional facilities to service prisoners who enter the jails with serious drug- or alcohol-induced health issues in addition to the problems coming from the absence of health care, Wallenstein said.

‘‘A failure to provide quality health care opens county coffers to possible judgments, let alone possible serious injury to the inmate population,” he said. ‘‘There are no other options but to do it right.”

Wallenstein noted that the Department of Correction and Rehabilitation received the award with support from the county executive, County Council and the Department of Health and Human Services.

‘‘This is a unique and distinct honor and I am exceedingly proud of everyone who contributed to achieving this recognition,” County Executive Isiah ‘‘Ike” Leggett (D) said in a statement.

County Council President Marilyn J. Praisner (D-Dist. 4) of Calverton said preparing inmates for re-entering the community is a ‘‘critical responsibility.”

‘‘This award shows that our correctional staff is top notch in helping inmates not only within the system, but getting them ready for life outside,” Praisner said in a statement.

Additionally, the county jails scored a perfect rating from the American Correctional Association on its 376 standards. The facilities also received national accreditation from the Correctional Education Association for the adult education and youthful offender education programs.

‘‘It’s been a good summer,” Wallenstein said.