The National Commission on Correctional Health Care has given its Program of the Year Award to a partnership between Rutgers University Correctional Health Care and the New Jersey Department of Corrections, citing the Continuous Quality Improvement Programming that improves the effectiveness of the physical, behavioral and dental health services provided to inmates.

This prestigious national award recognizes programs that are delivering healthcare excellence within prisons, jails and juvenile facilities nationwide.

The Continuous Quality Improvement (CQI) program, established by Rutgers University Correctional Health Care and the New Jersey Department of Corrections, trains healthcare delivery professionals, correctional officers and administrative staff in the New Jersey prison system on the techniques of quality improvement and encourages them to use these techniques to continuously improve the clinical effectiveness and the positive experience of care delivered to the 19,000 inmates across the NJ DOC and the juvenile justice system.

Under the leadership of Hesham Soliman, medical director at the NJDOC; Herbert Kaldany, director of psychiatry, addictions and mental health; and Ellen Shelley, assistant director of the NJ DOC’s Health Services Unit, CQI has encouraged New Jersey prisons to adopt initiatives such as transgender health care, use of medication-assisted treatment for substance use disorders, innovative pre-release and post-release peer navigator support and recovery programming for opioid-addicted inmates and reducing the use of sleep medication for inmates.

“I would like to thank the staff of Rutgers University Correctional Health Care for the outstanding work they perform in our facilities. Together, we continue to seek ways to improve and streamline patient care. In doing so, we pledge to deliver quality medical, mental health and dental services, while honoring our commitment to ensure that no life is disposable,” said Marcus O. Hicks, NJ DOC Acting Commissioner.

Each year, leaders from the university and the corrections department evaluate mental health initiatives at the state’s 13 adult and juvenile facilities, and use the top-rated projects to enhance staff training and to promote these successful projects across the system.

“UCHC has made performance improvement a key ingredient of its healthcare service delivery model. Beginning at orientation, the healthcare staff, faculty, administrators and corrections officers are trained that continuous quality improvement goes far beyond basic accreditation requirements — that it is instead a fundamental way to approach their daily work, and a way to improve, each day, the quality of the care being delivered to inmates,” said Frank A Ghinassi, president and CEO of Rutgers University Behavioral Health Care and University Correctional Health Care.

New Jersey’s correction system is one of a growing number nationwide that has outsourced its healthcare to health science universities to meet their needs for health care of prisoners. UCHC has been providing mental health services to NJ DOC facilities since 2005 and all health care services since 2008.

“Universities have a tradition of cutting-edge research, and a commitment to creativity, ongoing self-evaluation and investigation of innovative technologies. This dedication to a triple mission — delivering evidence-based healthcare services, advancing the science through research and educating the next generation of healthcare providers — allows corrections departments that partner with an academic health delivery system to reap the benefits of a commitment to a culture of continuous quality improvement,” said Ghinassi. “This partnership also contributes to improved staff training and retention, unimpeded cooperation with other relevant state agencies and a focus on state-of-the-art, evidence-based treatments, all provided within the context of a safe, outcomes data–driven and cost-effective framework.”

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