New Jersey Corrections Officials Launch Mass Notification for Inmates With Hepatitis C
New Jersey corrections officials have launched a mass notification program to inform all inmates in the state that they have been diagnosed with hepatitis C, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. According to a medical audit, during the last two weeks of July, officials notified 421 inmates that they were infected with the virus, meaning that all 1,169 prisoners in the state who are known to have the disease have now been informed of their disease status. While most of the inmates informed of their diagnosis in July received their diagnosis within one year of being tested, 121 of the prisoners waited between one to two years to be informed. In addition, 21 other inmates who tested positive for hepatitis C were recently released from prison without being informed of their diagnosis.
Moving Toward Mass Testing and Treatment
Although New Jersey estimates that 5% of prisoners in the state have hepatitis C, the state tests only inmates who are considered at risk for the virus and only at the prisoners' request and does not currently provide treatment for inmates with hepatitis C. New Jersey Prison Commissioner Devon Brown said he wants all prisoners in the state to be tested and treated for hepatitis C, but it is unclear how the state will proceed toward this goal. Correctional Medical Services, the private medical vendor for New Jersey prisons, recently proposed a contract renewal that did not include treatment for inmates infected with hepatitis C, stating that it would provide hepatitis C testing and treatment only if the state paid for it. Brown said that the state rejected CMS' bid because it did not include hepatitis C treatment, but the current contract between CMS and the state is set to expire and officials must come up with other options if they are to provide treatment, the Inquirer reports. Possible solutions would be to organize the state's prisons into different regions to encourage more competitive bidding or to put out another request for bids from medical contractors, Brown said (Fazlollah/Lin, Philadelphia Inquirer, 10/6). The Inquirer on Sunday also profiled Genevieve Cunningham, a former prison health counselor who was fired from her job at Bayside State Prison in New Jersey for telling a prisoner who asked to know his hepatitis C status that he was infected with the virus (Fazlollah/Lin, Philadelphia Inquirer, 10/6). The full article is available online