Department of Corrections and Community Supervision

New York State
Department of Correctional Services
Glenn S. Goord, Commissioner

Office of Public Information
[518] 457-8182

For immediate release:

Friday, November 14, 2003

DOCS Commissioner welcomes Assembly majority to discussion of inmate health care

Commissioner Glenn S. Goord said today that he welcomes the Assembly majority to the challenge of providing state prison inmates with medical care that meets community standards.

The Assembly's health and corrections committees have scheduled a joint hearing today in the Legislative Office Building in Albany on the subject of inmate medical care.

In the past nine years, the Department has increased spending on inmate medical services by 50 percent, as it rose from $149 million in 1994-95 to $224 million in 2002-03. Over the same period, the inmate population declined by 9 percent, from a peak of 71,538 in December 1999 to today's 65,369.

During the same period, the Assembly majority has not proposed a penny or a program to enrich, increase or expand inmate medical health care. Commissioner Goord hopes today's hearing represents a desire by the Assembly majority to join in the planning and delivery of inmate health care: "We welcome them in becoming our partners along with the state Department of Health (DOH), the American Correctional Association (ACA), the federal Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH)."

Meanwhile, the Department has in the past nine years opened four regional medical units (at the Coxsackie, Wende, Bedford Hills and Fishkill prisons) to provide skilled long-term nursing care in-house. It has also renovated infirmaries across the state to provide more efficient and effective services and provided inmates with more than 112,000 medical specialty care appointments.

Since 1995, approximately 20,000 inmates have been tested annually for HIV exposure as the number of AIDS deaths has declined by 93 percent, from 258 in 1995 to 18 last year. The number of inmates being treated for opportunistic infections has remained stable at about 1,000 cases for several years. The seropositivity rate of incoming males has dropped 73 percent, from 18 percent in 1988 to 5 percent in 2000.

In 2002 alone, more than 66,000 inmates were tested for TB. As a result of staff and inmate testing and close monitoring of inmates for symptoms, the rate of TB infection has declined 95 percent, from 225 cases per 100,000 inmates in 1991 to 28 currently.

The 150 inmates who meet CDC and NIH guidelines for Hepatitis C treatment are receiving it. Under those same federal guidelines, the remaining 9,000 infected inmates are closely monitored. Those with normal liver function are tested every 6-12 months while those with elevated functions are monitored every 8-12 weeks. There were 19 inmate deaths from Hep C in 2002, the same as in the previous year.

These advances have resulted in real savings to taxpayers, who in 1995 paid for 37,500 patient days in outside hospitals that sometimes cost in excess of $1,000 per diem. In 2002, the number of outpatient days was 15,258, a decrease of nearly 60 percent.

Taxpayers as well as inmates benefit from ACA standards requiring "performance-based" standards that mandate outcome measures to evaluate the success of treatment. DOCS also incorporates CDC and DOH guidelines into its own policies for the review of medical records, internal auditing and quality improvement programs. Those measures not only ensure inmates are receiving proper care, but also require the most cost-effective delivery of medical services.