USC Correctional Health, a Keck School of Medicine of USC program, won the 2016 Best in Category Achievement Award for Health from the National Association of Counties (NaCo). This is the second prestigious award for the program, which was recognized last year with a Los Angeles County Quality and Productivity Award.

The Keck School partnered with the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department to form the USC Correctional Health program in 2013. The program’s mission is to improve access to care for inmates while reducing overall health care costs.

“The program’s mission is to provide on-site clinic care and decrease emergency room utilization,” said Erick Eiting, MD, former medical director for USC Correctional Health. “In doing so, we provide better health for inmates long-term, and we save millions of dollars in health care costs.”

The initiative was a response to prison overcrowding from Assembly Bill 109, which placed new, non-violent, non-dangerous or non-sexual offenders in county jails to prevent overcrowding in state prisons. Because of the bill, county jails that originally accommodated inmates with short-term sentences were suddenly inundated with inmates staying three years or longer, often with chronic health conditions. As inmates’ health deteriorated due to lack of quality primary care, they were often sent directly to emergency care, which was both expensive and often insufficient since inmates were not receiving the proper specialty care.

While Los Angeles County has its own primary care physicians, USC Correctional Health organized and continues to staff on-site urgent care covering each of the seven county jails and a comprehensive OB/GYN clinic at the women’s jail. By providing better preventive care and urgent care services, thus decreasing the number of trips to the emergency room, USC Correctional Health has saved Los Angeles County more than $4 million each year since its inception.

“The Keck School of Medicine is always exploring ways we can provide healthcare to underserved populations in Los Angeles County,” said Glenn Ault, MD, MSeD, senior associate dean for clinical administration at Keck School of Medicine and current medical director of USC Correctional Health. “This award is a testimony to the great work that we can do, especially in partnerships with other community organizations like the Los Angeles Department of Health Services and the Sheriff’s Department.”

Eiting accepted the award in a June ceremony in Long Beach, alongside Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell and sheriff’s Capt. Kevin Kuykendall.

“Health care is a civil rights issue,” Eiting said. “We have improved access to care when people are at their most vulnerable.”

— Mary Dacuma