During the 2011 Session, the Florida Legislature directed the Department to issue Requests for Proposals (RFPs) for the provision of comprehensive health care services to include physical health (including utilization management), dental and mental health.
For the 18-month period from July 1, 2009 to December 31, 2010 (the most recent complete data the Department has), cancer was the primary cause of inmate deaths (152 deaths), followed by cardiac deaths (116).
In an effort to address this disease, the Reception and Medical Center in Lake Butler, Florida engaged in a public-private partnership with Community Cancer Center (CCC) of North Florida, to open a Cancer Center on site in December 2010. CCC paid for design and construction costs for the Center. It is the nation's first and only existing Radiation Oncology Treatment Center within the secure fence of a correctional institution.
This is a state-of-the-art facility designed to provide radiation therapy as well as to serve as an oncology unit. Prior to having the Cancer Center on prison grounds, Department staff would awaken cancer inmate patients at 3 am Monday through Friday to travel to a nearby city for early radiation therapy treatments at the private office of a contracted oncologist.
Having this center on site enhances public safety by keeping inmates on prison grounds for the treatments rather than outside the fences, and it avoids the associated costs for security staff and transportation to contracted outside medical facilities.
Today, inmates are provided radiation/oncology services Monday through Friday at RMC. The facility is currently serving approximately 25 patients and administers over 145 chemotherapy treatments monthly. Ultimately, the new Cancer Center provides for improved continuity of care for our inmate cancer patients.
Last year, the Florida Department of Corrections (DC) entered into a three-year agreement with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to identify military veterans being released from prison and those on community supervision so that the VA can assist those who are eligible with their mental health, medical, substance abuse, and housing needs.
Approximately 6,700 of the 102,000 inmates currently serving time in Florida prisons have identified themselves as military veterans. This agreement is designed to help improve continuity of care for the released inmates and offenders who are veterans, and is saving money for Florida taxpayers who fund state and community programs that would otherwise be accessed by these inmates and offenders upon release.
The Department has comprehensive medical records on what types of mental health, medical or substance abuse treatment the inmates in our care require, and sharing that information with our VA partners is smoothing their transition into society, and opening up more doors for them to receive necessary services.
Participation in this agreement is completely voluntary on the part of the inmate and offenders on supervision. Using data provided by the Department, the VA identifies incarcerated veterans who are eligible for VA benefits upon release from prison. The VA gives them information about what benefits and services are available to them, and also assists them prior to release in completing the applications and forms required to access their veteran's benefits.
In an effort to reduce healthcare costs and to make our prisons safer and protect inmates and staff from the dangers of second-hand smoke, the Department announced an initiative in March 2011 to ban tobacco use by Florida inmates by October 1, 2011.
Smoking bans have long been in place in all of Florida's public buildings and offices. More than half of the state prisons in the United States already have similar bans, and since 2004, all of the prisons in the Federal Prison system have banned smoking on prison grounds.
In the past year, inmates hospitalized for tobacco - related illnesses have cost Florida taxpayers nearly $9 million. Snuffing out cigarettes will also result in cleaner prisons and by removing lighters, reduce the chance of arson.
The Department is giving 180 days notice to inmates and is offering smoking cessation assistance to inmates requesting help. Inmates interested in a cessation program are instructed to contact Institutional Health Services. Trans-dermal nicotine patches via a 14 day supply are being offered for sale in the canteens for $34.99 prior to May 1, 2011.
The Department will gradually reduce the possession limits over the next six months, as detailed below. Possession of these items in excess of these established limits will result in disciplinary action, as will possession of tobacco products or lighters.
April 1 – May 12 | 10 packs of cigarettes, 10 packs of loose smoking tobacco, 10 cans of smokeless tobacco, 1 lighter, 10 packs of papers, and 70 cigars.
May 13 – June 23 | 5 packs of cigarettes, 5 packs of loose smoking tobacco, 5 cans of smokeless tobacco, 1 lighter, 5 packs of papers, and 35 cigars.
June 24 – August 4 | 2 packs of cigarettes, 2 packs of loose smoking tobacco, 2 cans of smokeless tobacco, 1 lighter, 2 packs of papers, and 10 cigars.
August 5 – September 30 | 1 pack of cigarettes, 1 pack of loose smoking tobacco, 1 can of smokeless tobacco, 1 lighter, 1 pack of papers, and 5 cigars.