by Photo courtesy of San Diego County Sheriff's Department

The San Diego County Sheriff’s Department launched new procedures to improve healthcare services and expand the Medication-Assisted Treatment program at three intake facilities. 

The changes were implemented during the medical screening process at Las Colinas Detention and Reentry Facility, San Diego Central Jail, and Vista Detention Facility. This comes months after the California State Auditor reported unusually frequent jail-inmate deaths, charging that the agency has "has failed to adequately prevent and respond to" the problem. 

“We are committed to the care and safety of everyone under Sheriff’s custody,” said San Diego County Undersheriff Kelly Martinez in a video released by the department.

With the new changes, new inmates will be screened for any history of substance abuse. The Sheriff's medical staff will ask specific medical and mental health questions as part of the intake protocol.

Martinez said those showing withdrawal symptoms are assessed by a medical provider.  

“This is our first step in assessing our medically managed treatment program in our jails,” Martinez said. 

People who will fit the criteria will be asked to provide a urine sample followed by an assessment for further evaluation. The information provided by the urine samples will allow providers to start eligible individuals with buprenorphine and other applicable medications to help improve care and safely manage withdrawal.

According to Martinez, the department will never use urine samples as evidence in a criminal or other investigation.

The department said it will streamline processes concerning individuals who show abnormalities while going through a body scanner. Individuals showing abnormalities during body scans will be provided a form detailing the concern. 

This information will help medical staff at a hospital properly diagnose a person. When a hospital clears a person for booking, the arresting deputy or officer must provide a Medical Discharge/Clearance for a Booking form to Sheriff's Medical Staff. 

According to the department, discharge paperwork detailing a person's diagnosis and treatment will ensure continuity of care while in custody. Law enforcement agencies in the county have been informed of these new medical screening protocols through the San Diego County Chiefs and Sheriff's Association.

According to Martinez,  the Sheriff’s department also had updates had been made to its electronic records system to “improve efficiencies while we maintain the continuity of care for patients”. The department said it will conduct 24/7 health monitoring by a team of physician assistants, nurse practitioners, and doctors. 

“With a click of a button, nurses are in contact with health providers who in real-time can review patient charts, order medications, and schedule follow-up appointments,”  Martinez said. 

Last year the Sheriff's Department began a comprehensive jail improvement program. 

“We are striving every day to provide safe environments for people in jail. It doesn't matter what someone is in jail for. Anyone in  our custody deserves to be safe, treated fairly and with dignity.” 

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