District of Columbia Jail:

Medical Services Generally Met Requirements and Costs Decreased, but Oversight Is Incomplete

GAO-04-750: Published: Jun 30, 2004. Publicly Released: Jul 30, 2004.

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Since the end of a court-ordered receivership overseeing medical services at the District of Columbia Jail in September 2000, the Department of Corrections (DoC) has contracted with the Center for Correctional Health and Policy Studies, Inc. (CCHPS) to provide inmate medical services. GAO was asked to provide information on (1) the medical services DoC contracted with CCHPS to provide, including CCHPS's monitoring of its services; (2) mechanisms DoC established to oversee CCHPS's services; (3) CCHPS's contract compliance and DoC's efforts to ensure compliance; and (4) the cost of medical services. To collect this information, GAO analyzed documents and interviewed officials from District agencies, CCHPS officials, and an independent reviewer hired by DoC to monitor medical services.

DoC has contracted with CCHPS to provide a broad range of medical services to inmates at the District of Columbia Jail and the Correctional Treatment Facility (CTF)--an adjacent overflow facility. Services include health screenings at intake; primary care services, including care for chronic conditions; mental health care; and specialty care. In addition, CCHPS assists DoC in helping inmates obtain services not included in the contract, such as specialty or emergency services that cannot be offered on-site. As part of the contract, CCHPS also established a quality improvement program to monitor its services. A key component of the program is a quarterly analysis of random samples of inmate medical records to measure how consistently CCHPS delivers required services. DoC established several mechanisms to oversee CCHPS's delivery of medical services to inmates. For example, DoC retained an independent reviewer to monitor the services provided by CCHPS on a quarterly basis. In addition, the contract gives DoC authority to impose monetary damages on CCHPS if it fails to meet any of 12 requirements specified in the contract, most of which relate to providing key services to a minimum percentage of inmates. The contract also requires CCHPS to submit quarterly and annual progress reports describing quality problems identified by the independent reviewer or its own monitoring and actions taken to correct them. Although available evidence indicates that CCHPS has generally complied with the terms of its contract, DoC has not exercised sufficient oversight to provide assurance that problems are not occurring or are quickly corrected. The independent reviewer has consistently found that CCHPS's services meet the contract's overall requirements for access to care and quality, but has also reported that CCHPS has not always met certain requirements. For example, while CCHPS recently improved its performance in providing timely follow-up services to inmates with abnormal chest x-ray results, the independent reviewer had repeatedly found problems in this area. DoC has not taken actions that would allow it to be assured of CCHPS's compliance with contract requirements linked to monetary damages. The agency has not collected data or developed a formal procedure to determine whether CCHPS has met the requirements, and it lacks a procedure to impose damages if warranted. Also, DoC has not regularly enforced the contract requirement that CCHPS submit quarterly and annual progress reports describing quality problems and corrective actions, and CCHPS has often not submitted these reports. From 2000 to 2003, the average daily cost of providing medical services to a Jail inmate decreased by almost one-third, from about $19 a day per inmate to about $13 a day. In 2003, DoC consolidated the services provided to inmates in the Jail and the CTF under one contract with CCHPS. In that year, during which 17,431 inmates were admitted to the Jail and the CTF, the total cost of providing medical services at both facilities was about $15.8 million.

Status Legend:

More Info
  • Review Pending-GAO has not yet assessed implementation status.
  • Open-Actions to satisfy the intent of the recommendation have not been taken or are being planned, or actions that partially satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-implemented-Actions that satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-not implemented-While the intent of the recommendation has not been satisfied, time or circumstances have rendered the recommendation invalid.
    • Review Pending
    • Open
    • Closed - implemented
    • Closed - not implemented

    Recommendations for Executive Action

    Recommendation: To help ensure that CCHPS provides required medical services to inmates of the District of Columbia Jail and the CTF, the Mayor should require the Director of DoC to develop formal procedures--including collection of needed data--to regularly assess whether CCHPS's performance meets the contract requirements that are linked to monetary damages and to impose these damages.

    Agency Affected: District of Columbia

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: As of August 26, 2005, the District of Columbia, Department of Corrections had not implemented the recommendation. The recommendation is now moot because a different contractor is providing medical services at both the DC Jail and Correctional Treatment Facility.

    Recommendation: To help ensure that CCHPS provides required medical services to inmates of the District of Columbia Jail and the CTF, the Mayor should require the Director of DoC to ensure that CCHPS submits to DoC the required quarterly and annual progress reports, which should describe identified problems and the actions CCHPS has taken to correct them.

    Agency Affected: District of Columbia

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: On August 26, 2005, the District of Columbia, Department of Corrections provided documentation showing that the first annual report for the period covered by and immediately following our report (3/04 - 3/05) had been submitted by the contractor, as had the quarterly reports for a period following our report. The annual report provides information on identified problems and actions taken to correct those problems.

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