Six years after losing their national accreditation, both Maricopa County’s Correctional Health Services Department and all of the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office jails have not only been re-accredited, but the two agencies have been named the nation’s best in 2015. Correctional Health Services and the MCSO are scheduled to receive the “Facility of the Year” award Monday, Sept. 21 for their work they in providing over 126,000 inmates with health care services. In a July 30 letter to six MCSO commanders and top CHS officials, Thomas L. Joseph, President and CEO of the National Commission on Correctional Health Care (NCCHC), announced that Maricopa County will receive the R. Scott Chavez “Facility of the Year Award” for 2015. The award is based on accrediting inspections and surveys completed November 2014. The award will be formally announced Oct. 19 at a national conference in Dallas, but the organization’s accrediting specialist will visit Phoenix Monday to present the award at a meeting of the Board of Supervisors and at a ceremony for CHS and Sheriff’s Office staff later in the day. Maricopa County was judged the best of the nation’s 500 jails, prisons and other correctional facilities. The award represents a remarkable, if incremental turnaround for the agency and MCSO. The jail system had been placed on probation in February 2006, then lost accreditation after a 2008 report cited failure to meet several essential standards of care. The county was criticized for poor handling of patient records, inadequate staffing, heavy use of temporary staff and high turnover of top management staff. Since then, the county has made steady, under-the-radar progress, investing in additional staff, training and technology for both CHS and MCSO. The jail system is run by Sheriff Joe Arpaio while CHS falls under County Manager Tom Manos and, ultimately, the five-member Board of Supervisors. In 2011, the county won back initial accreditation and full accreditation in March 2012. By 2012, more than 80 CHS employees had completed continuing education training and passed Certified Correctional Health Professional exams, demonstrating mastery of national standards. CHS Medical Director Dr. Jeffrey Alvarez, who joined CHS in December 2009, credited a hardworking staff that handles some 9,000 health requests a month and see nearly 300 inmates each day. According to MCSO Commander Brian Lee, who heads health services for the jail, a total 105,000 inmates are booked each year and CHS is responsible to perform at least an initial medical screen on all of them. For the current 2016 fiscal year, CHS is budgeted to spend $66.9 million.
Since the last general jail survey in November, CHS has also achieved NCCHC accreditation for its three licensed Opioid Treatment Programs.