A Unique Partnership: Serving the Underserved

May 5, 2014

Since 1930, the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) and Commissioned Corps of the U.S. Public Health Service have worked together to provide medical care to the federal inmate population. Through this partnership, Commissioned Corps officers uphold the mission to protect, promote, and advance the health and safety of the nation by treating this at-risk and underserved population.


LCDR Katherine Demers

As part of the BOP, Commissioned Corps officers are part of a collaborative, interdisciplinary team that strives to deliver the highest quality of care to patients. LT Lauren Brewer is a utilization review nurse at the Federal Medical Center (FMC) in Devens, MA. LT Brewer works closely with a variety of providers and specialists–from pharmacists and dietitians to physical therapists and more–to arrange patient care. She meets with her team on a weekly basis to discuss cases and to determine the best course of action for the patients. In this role, LT Brewer ensures seamless patient care and quality improvement. “When I review consults, I look at the procedure the doctor wants and I ask: is this the right order of care? Do we need more tests? Does the patient need to visit an outside facility or can we take care of it here? Are we sure this is the next best step?” says LT Brewer.

Inmate health care at the BOP extends beyond traditional medicine. Health education and promotion is a critical part of treating members of this vulnerable population, many of which have never seen a health care provider before entering a BOP facility. LCDR Katherine Demers is a physician assistant at the Federal Corrections Institute (FCI) in El Reno, OK. She teaches inmates about sexually transmitted diseases and leads an orientation for new inmates on infectious diseases, hand washing techniques, and the importance of preventive health care. “Giving a patient a medication and telling them to take it is one thing. By teaching them about their disease, we are helping them stay healthier up to and after their release,” says LCDR Demers.

FCI El Reno also conducts a diabetes education program that teaches inmates about obesity. “It's amazing to me how many of the inmates will soak up information,” observes LCDR Demers. “We see inmates whose family members have diabetes, but have absolutely no knowledge about the disease, the processes, or the control of it. We educate them and many of them bring this information back to their communities, many of which are underserved.”

Through the BOP’s holistic approach to health care and wellness, inmates get the support and assistance they need for reintroduction back to society. “Inmates have issues–internal and external–that led them down the road of doing the wrong thing. I enjoy being part of something to get them back on the right road,” says CAPT Stephen Spaulding, who has experience overseeing recreational, religious, and vocational programs for inmates.


CAPT Stephen Spaulding

CAPT Spaulding is an occupational therapist and serves as a senior Corps officer and supervisor at a medium security prison at the Federal Correctional Complex (FCC) in Allenwood, PA. As part of his many responsibilities, CAPT Spaulding oversees a residential drug treatment program for inmates. “You have to ensure programs are well functioning, are meaningful to inmates, and are making a difference so that they don’t come back to prison.”

CAPT Spaulding also manages re-entry programs. These programs help inmates learn how to set goals, reconnect with family, and in some cases how to use an ATM, pump gas, or understand what a cell phone is. Currently, 80%1 of federal inmates successfully transition back to their communities and do not return to the BOP. The Commissioned Corps is proud to work with the BOP to make a unique and fundamental impact on public health by treating members of this at-risk population. To learn more about the BOP, visit www.bop.gov.

1 http://www.bop.gov/about/agency/