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Community Oriented Correctional Health Services

Community Oriented Correctional Health Services (COCHS) is the national leader in promoting health care connectivity between jails and the communities in which they reside. COCHS reserves its home page to highlight developments impacting public health and public safety. For those seeking more information about COCHS, please visit our About Us page.

  • Policymakers, provide adequate health care in prisons and detention centers
    In an opinion piece for CNN, Homer Venters, COCHS Health Justice Fellow, and Katherine C. McKenzie write, since President Donald Trump has taken office, 24 individuals have died in ICE custody, according to federal data analyzed by NBC News. This includes six migrant children who have died in less than a year. One of the migrants was a 16-year-old Guatemalan boy who died while being held in custody by US Customs and Border Protection. He was diagnosed with the flu. He was found unresponsive at the Weslaco Border Patrol Station in Texas, although his cause of death is still unknown. This is not a surprise when we consider the conditions in US jails and detention centers. Facilities are often bleak, over-crowded and under-resourced, while those held in custody are frequently separated from their loved ones. Insufficient or negligent medical care is a violation of human rights, according to the World Health Organization. But basic human rights should be afforded to all. And, in the case of prisoners, "a deliberate indifference to serious medical needs" violates the Eighth Amendment's prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment.
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  • How Connecting Justice-Involved Individuals to Medicaid Can Help Address the Opioid Epidemic
    Vicki Wachino the former director of the Center for Medicaid and CHIP Services at the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services from 2015 to 2017 writes for the Kaiser Family Foundation how providing treatment to people with addiction who are involved with the criminal justice system can help address the epidemic of opioid use disorder (OUD) and increasing rates of overdose in the U.S. Many people with OUD and other substance use disorders (SUD) are involved with the criminal justice system. The period that immediately follows incarceration poses extremely high health risks for them. The ACA Medicaid expansion provided new opportunities to connect individuals leaving incarceration to coverage and services that can mitigate these risks and help people successfully transition into the community with services to support recovery and treatment.
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  • Getting serious about preventable deaths and injuries behind bars
    In an opinion piece for The Hill, Dr. Homer Venters, COCHS Health Justice Fellow and the former chief medical officer at New York's Rikers Island, discusses the health risks of populations cycling through our criminal justice system. These health risks include death, injury and sexual abuse. Many who die commit suicide, which is the leading cause of death in America’s county jails. The use of solitary confinement, whether in name or practice, as the primary response to mental health and substance use issues behind bars is an important contributor to these preventable deaths. Other drivers of preventable death include denial of care for chronic disease, lack of treatment for substance use and outright physical abuse.
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  • Dr. Homer Venter's testimony in front of New York State’s Assembly Committee on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse, Assembly Committee on Health, and Assembly Committee on Correction
    In his statement, Dr. Venters, the Senior Health and Justice Fellow for COCHS, details the benefits of medication assisted treatment (MAT) in places of detention. In his experience, Dr. Venters has seen first-hand the stabilizing impact that MAT can have on the health of individuals, their ability to maintain healthy relationships, employment and housing. MAT lowers mortality behind bars, not only for overdose deaths but for overall mortality.
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  • HR 6: The Opioid Bundle
    On October 24, 2018, the President Trump signed HR 6 also known as the Opioid Bundle, which signifies a major leap forward in ensuring that our health care system reflects the reality that incarcerated individuals are members of our community and deserve to be treated as such. HR 6 contains several sections that could stop the disparate impact of the opioid crisis and fundamentally change the criminal justice system. Contained within this law is the Medicaid Reentry Act found in Section 5031 et seq. These sections require Health and Human Services to create a stakeholder group to develop best practices to allow for Medicaid dollars to pay for care 30 days before release. Unlocking funding sources for this crucial time will create a unified payer for services received on both sides of the wall and allow for continuity of care unlike the which we have never seen for justice-involved individuals. Read more...
  • Jail-Based Medication-Assisted Treatment:
    Promising Practices, Guidelines and Resources for The Field

    Jails have become a revolving door for individuals struggling with mental health and
    substance use disorders. The following guidelines introduce what has been learned from the sheriff s’ and jail administrators’ innovative use of MAT, describing the essential components of these programs and analyzing the latest research on how these programs are best implemented, as well as the medications approved for opioid use disorders.
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  • Achieving Racial Equity in Health Care & Criminal Justice Reform
    The Legal Action Center’s No Health = No Justice Campaign is a Multistate Plan envisioning a system of mass decarceration where health care is provided to all and people are no longer criminalized for conditions related to their health.
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  • Prescribing and Dispensing Medications within Corrections:
    The Role of Health Information Technology

    COCHS' Chief Information Officer Ben Butler’s latest issue paper describes how medications are prescribed and dispensed in a criminal justice system setting. While many community providers can assume that their community has an existing infrastructure for the prescribing and dispensing of medications, correctional facilities often have to implement their own systems for this purpose. Ben’s paper is the first of its type describing these vital components of correctional health care. This paper outlines the ways in which multiple technologies and multiple stakeholders must cooperate to build out systems unique to their environment.
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  • Ocala Community Care marks 10 years of helping jail inmates
    Ocala Community Care covers the “sub-acute” needs of the inmate population, which is currently about 1,300. The organization provides medical, dental and mental health care. It deals with a full range of needs, including pregnancy. Ocala Community Care is modeled after Community Oriented Correctional Health Services (COCHS), used by the Hampden County Sheriff’s Department at the Hampden County Jail and House of Corrections in Ludlow, Massachusetts.
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  • Jails: Inadvertent Health Care Providers
    Based on research contributed by COCHS' staff, the PEW Charitable Trust explores how jails obtain health care services for detainees. The findings show that county jails vary in many ways—from how they pay for their health care to the specific services they offer. Examining these different approaches can help county leaders make more informed choices about how to fulfill jails’ role in the health care safety net, achieve their county public safety missions, and spend taxpayer dollars more wisely.
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  • The National Association of Counties(NACo):
    Medicaid Coverage and County Jails

    In order to educate federal policymakers on issues around Medicaid and justice-involved individuals, NACo recently released a new report titled, Medicaid Coverage and County Jails: Understanding Challenges and Opportunities for Improving Health Outcomes for Justice-Involved Individuals. In this document, NACo’s Associate Legislative Director for Health, Brian Bowden, explains why Congress should pass legislation to ease and/ or undo the federal Medicaid inmate exclusion and require states to suspend, instead of terminate, Medicaid coverage for justice involved individuals. Further, The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) should exercise their existing authority to provide additional state flexibility in the Medicaid program to cover justice-involved individuals. Read more...
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  • Signed Out Of Prison But Not Signed Up For Health Insurance
    Although Medicaid expansion has offered help to many of those who have never had access to lifesaving medications, wending one’s way through the bureaucratic thicket remains a challenge that all too often requires luck to be successful. This is particularly true for individuals leaving correctional care without health insurance. Dan Mistak, COCHS' general counsel is interviewed for this story and highlights COCHS work in this area. Read more...

  • The Surgeon General's Report on Alcohol, Drugs, and Health
    The first-ever Surgeon General’s Report on Alcohol, Drugs, and Health reviews what we know about substance misuse and how you can use that knowledge to address substance misuse and related consequences. Read more...