SIU to provide medical services for Illinois state prisons

The Illinois Department of Corrections is launching a new pilot program to improve health care services for state inmates.

The Illinois Department of Corrections currently houses 40,000 inmates – inmates who, just like people outside of prison, need medical care. Providing health care services for inmates is expensive – the 10-year state contract is worth $1.4 billion. Despite the cost, the system is plagued by understaffing and lack of access to needed services across the state.

“The department has really strived to look at innovative ways to significantly improve the quality of health care,” said Dr. Steve Meeks, medical director for the Illinois state prison system.

Based on successful programs in other states, Illinois is launching a pilot program with the Southern Illinois School of Medicine to improve health outcomes for prisoners. It will roll out at Pinckneyville and at the women’s prison, Logan Correctional Center, to start.

Officials hope the new program will keep costs in line and provide quality care for inmates.

“What you’re going to see is a real focus on primary care in these facilities as well as a focus on some psychiatric services as we expand the relationship,” Meeks said.

At first, the focus will be on primary care – and advanced practice medicine at the women’s prison. But eventually, Meeks said services will be expanded.

“We certainly will be able to expand that relationship in other areas of health care,” he said, which includes mental health and psychiatric services.

Phase one begins this summer at Logan and Pinckneyville; medical teams will be in place at Shawnee and Vienna prisons in 2021. SIU could cover up to 25 of the state’s prisons, work camps and other facilities. If all goes well, Meeks said, the state will look to roll out similar partnerships with other medical schools across the state.

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