Prison Life - Health Services

Prison life

Health care services, which include medical, dental, mental health care and the Chemical Dependency treatment program, are provided to inmates by on site health care staff. The Department assures that health care providers and counselors have the necessary licenses or certifications to practice in Washington state. Emphasis is placed on early identification of health concerns, care for acute and chronic health problems and preventive care. Providers offer medically necessary and quality care in accordance with the Department’s Offender Health Plan (or the En Espaņol version) for offenders.

The DOC Pharmacy and Therapeutics Committee establishes and maintains a Department formulary of authorized pharmaceutical management based on the Offender Health Plan.

Practitioners may submit a non-formulary request when alternative formulary medications have failed or are not available. DOC 13-091 Request To Use Non-Formulary Drug

How do I contact health care staff at a specific facility?

We provide a telephone number for Health Services staff at each facility on our Contact Us page.

How does an inmate make an appointment with health care staff?

When an inmate arrives at a Department institution, an orientation is provided that describes the institution’s particular procedure for requesting to see health care staff. Usually, offenders who want medical or dental care must submit a written request (kite) which will be screened and prioritized. Appointments are scheduled by health care staff. Emergency medical care is provided as necessary.

Can our family physician be used to provide routine medical services?

No, but inmates are encouraged to have medical records forwarded to the institution’s medical unit for review and inclusion in the medical file. Outside services are used as needed through contracted specialists. Medications may not be sent by family or other outside sources.

The Department provides opportunity for inmates to purchase health care services not provided in the Offender Health Plan. DOC’s policy on Offender Paid Health Care outlines the process for authorizing an inmate’s request for inmate-paid medical, mental health and dental care. Services are provided by a provider of the inmate’s choice and the Department is not responsible for the outcome of any health care received.

What if the inmate needs specialized treatment?

Some Department institutions have chronic care clinics to provide services to patients with diabetes, heart conditions and other chronic conditions. When it is medically necessary, Department health care staff can refer inmates to community specialists, some of who may come to the specific institution to see patients. Specialty services may include cardiology, orthopedics, oncology, general surgery, oral surgery and obstetrics and gynecology.

What if the inmate needs more than out–patient care?

Several institutions have on site infirmaries that provide 24 ;hour observation and care by licensed health care staff. When an inmate requires hospitalization, community hospitals are used.

If hospitalized in a community hospital, can we visit or contact the hospital to find out the condition of an inmate?

No. All information about the medical status of an inmate must be provided through the institutional medical staff. State and federal laws prohibit the release of most medical information without the inmate’s written consent; therefore, information provided may be very limited. Hospitals, outside providers, and staff who are assigned to remain with the inmate are advised in advance that they cannot provide family with information about the inmate and that the inmate cannot have visitors. This is to ensure the security of the public, hospital administrators, other patients and the inmate. If the family attempts to visit an inmate patient at a hospital, the inmate may be moved to another location for continued care. In case of serious or critical illness, staff will notify the inmate’s identified emergency contact of the inmate’s status.

What if there are questions about treatment or medical conditions?

Family members are often concerned about the medical condition of an inmate. You can contact the institution’s Health Care Department when you have questions about medical care or treatment. The Department, like any health care provider, must abide by the statutes governing a patient’s right to confidentiality of health records. If he or she chooses, the inmate may sign a DOC 13–035 Authorization for Disclosure of Health Information form, (or the En Espaņol version) which will be kept on file in Health Services. This form will authorize the Department to provide you with information about his or her medical condition and treatment. This release must be renewed every 90 days.

What about the Affordable Care Act? How does that impact offenders?

The Department of Corrections is helping offenders learn more about their eligibility for health insurance as provided by the Affordable Care Act. Learn more here.

How does a friend or family member get medical information about an inmate’s treatment or medical condition?

An inmate may choose to share information with a friend or family member regarding his or her medical condition. If they would like the family member to speak directly with Health Services Staff, the inmate should complete the DOC 13–035 Authorization for Disclosure of Health Information form, (En Espaņol version) indicating telephone or in person type of disclosure.

Can special visiting or telephone contact be made to provide reassurance?

In cases of serious illness, special visits may be arranged through institutional staff. Again, it is important that you do not attempt to visit or call an outside hospital or physician without first receiving authorization through the institution.

How are eyeglasses provided?

There are several ways in which an inmate may receive corrective eyewear. The Department provides inmates the standard issue frame with prescribed lenses. Institutions have varying procedures for inmates to purchase personal glasses from an outside vendor. Glasses sent in from the outside are subject to examination by medical⁄custody staff.

What efforts are made to control contagious disease?

Guidelines of the Center for Disease Control and the Washington Department of Health are followed. Inmates are screened for infectious disease upon arrival into the Department, including sexually transmitted diseases and tuberculosis. If a health threat is posed to the inmate or staff, the inmate will be placed in isolation until the potential threat is resolved.

Are mental health services available?

The Department has several options for providing mental health care to those who require treatment. All major institutions can provide temporary or short-term in-patient psychiatric care for crisis management and stabilization. If chronic care is required, it is provided in specialized units. When necessary, professional mental health staff, including psychologists and psychiatrists, meet with inmates and conduct psychological and psychiatric evaluations. Staff may also provide individual and group therapy.

Learn more about mental health services.

Who should be contacted if mental health care services are needed?

If you believe an inmate is having emotional difficulties, you should encourage him or her to contact health care staff or you may contact the inmate’s Counselor, who can assist in arranging an appointment. If you think an inmate has an emergency need, for example, he or she is seriously considering suicide, you should immediately contact the institution.

What dental services are available?

All inmates receive a dental examination early in their incarceration. Dental care is prioritized as to urgency and medical necessity. Under certain circumstances, restorative care (such as fillings), oral surgery (such as extractions), dentures and preventative care are provided. No cosmetic or orthodontic services are provided.