A collaborative program between the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services, L.A. County Sheriff’s Department and the Keck School of Medicine of USC aimed at providing quality medical care to jail inmates while cutting taxpayer costs will be honored by Los Angeles County officials.

The Inmate Care Services Program will be given a Top 10 Award on Oct. 21 by the County of Los Angeles Quality and Productivity Commission.

The award is given each year to a county department or agency that show sustained success through innovation, cost avoidance, revenue savings and public service enhancement. The Inmate Services Program was selected from 37 competing entries.

Launched in 2013, the program is led by Erick Eiting, MD, medical director of inmate health services at LAC + USC Medical Center and USC Correctional Health. It is designed to provide treatment of inmates inside county jail facilities, including Men’s Central Jail and the Twin Towers Correctional Facility.

“Our concept is to take as much of the care as possible out of the hospital setting and bring it into the jail setting,” Eiting said. “We want to minimize potential community safety issues involved with taking patients out of jail.”

Under the program, an urgent care center staffed by a rotating team of 30 physicians has been established inside Twin Towers Correctional Facility. Additionally, a comprehensive women’s health program and clinic has been set up at Century Regional Detention Facility in Lynwood and four subspecialty clinics were opened at Twin Towers Correctional Facility, along with a new electronic referral system for coordinating and tracking patient care.

The program was launched after medical center officials noticed an increase in inmate patient admissions after the passage in 2011 of AB 109, a state law mandating that low-level, nonviolent offenders serve their sentences in county jails rather than in state prisons.

The county’s jail system, the largest in the United States, includes five facilities with a combined population that can top 18,000 inmates on any given day.

LAC + USC Medical Center’s jail ward has 16 emergency room beds and 24 inpatient beds and is routinely filling to capacity.

There have been 20,752 inmate patient visits in the medical center’s urgent care clinic inside Twin Towers since it opened in July 2013. The USC Correctional Health Department shares a close relationship with the Sheriff’s Department and its Medical Services Bureau. Physicians from the Medical Services Bureau provide general care to inmates, while USC Correctional Health physicians from LAC + USC Medical Center provide specialty and acute care services.

“On behalf of the entire department, I am pleased that the partnership between the Sheriff’s Department and the Department of Health Services is being recognized for the quality care we strive to provide the inmates in our jail system. This partnership will reduce the risks associated with transporting inmates to outside appointments while reducing county costs while improving inmate health care. We are honored to be recognized for the creativity and commitment of our hard working staff,” Sheriff Jim McDonnell said.

Eiting seeks to provide incarcerated patients with the best quality care possible, regardless of their past.

“You have to look past what these patients may have done and remind yourself that they deserve the same treatment as anyone else,” Eiting said. “I went to medical school and became of physician to treat all human beings, regardless of their background or back story.”

— Douglas Morino