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De Blasio Administration Announces Outposted Therapeutic Housing Units to Serve Patients in Custody with Serious Health Conditions

November 26, 2019

Outposted Therapeutic Housing Units at NYC Health + Hospitals/Bellevue and NYC Health + Hospitals/Woodhull will improve access to care for incarcerated individuals with complex medical, mental health, and substance use needs

NEW YORK—Building on prior efforts to reform the City’s criminal justice system and build new modern and borough-based facilities by 2026, the de Blasio administration, through NYC Health + Hospitals/Correctional Health Services (CHS), announced plans to open Therapeutic Housing Units to improve access to care for patients whose clinical conditions require access to specialty and subspecialty care.

“As we move forward to a smaller, safer and fairer criminal justice system, we’re exploring all options that will improve our justice system and end the era of mass incarceration,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “That means pushing for creative solutions that will help improve the lives of people in custody by providing a more therapeutic environment that is so crucial to help people reenter their communities.”

Subject to design, approximately 250 Outposted Therapeutic Housing Unit beds between NYC Health + Hospitals/Bellevue and NYC Health + Hospitals/Woodhull will be in secured, clinical units operated by CHS in areas separated from the public, as to not infringe on other patients or compromise security. The Department of Correction will provide security, and decisions regarding admission to and discharge from the Outposted Therapeutic Housing Units will be made by CHS according to a patient’s clinical needs.

The creation of these Units will also follow significant investments in both hospitals, resulting in improved care and infrastructure. Additionally, the implementation of the Units will not compromise the quality of care or existing services within the hospitals.

Development and implementation of the Unit model will bridge the gap in the correctional health care continuum between care provided in jail and inpatient hospitalization With a focus on reentry, individual treatment plans will be developed at both Units to support the health and wellbeing of patients, marking another step forward in the progress that CHS has made since its transition to NYC Health + Hospitals into its effort to transform health care services for patients in custody. These units substantially improve access to needed care and will offer a therapeutic and more normalized environment for those patients with more complex medical, mental health, and substance use needs.

Among the improvements since its transition to NYC Health + Hospitals in 2016, CHS has established more jail-based therapeutic housing units for patients with serious mental illness, substance use disorders, and/or complex medical needs. CHS launched the Geriatric and Complex Care Service, the first jail-based program of its type in the country, providing integrated clinical care and court advocacy to the oldest and most vulnerable patients in the jail system. In addition, CHS has expanded what was already the largest jail-based opioid treatment program in the nation, overseeing the care of approximately 6,000 patients with an opioid use disorder annually.

This initiative will decrease the number of beds in the borough-based jails by 250 and provide a more medically appropriate setting for certain individuals in the City’s care. Additionally, CHS has also recently enhanced reentry support services to help ensure successful reentry into the community, including the creation of Point of Reentry and Transition primary care practices at NYC Health + Hospitals/Bellevue and NYC Health + Hospitals/Kings County, which improve continuity of care for patients recently released from custody in City jails.

“I am extremely proud that NYC Health + Hospitals, as both innovator and advocate, will establish these new therapeutic units to allow for better access to hospital-based specialists to stabilize patients for successful reentry to the community,” said Mitchell Katz, MD, President and CEO of NYC Health + Hospitals.

“We are very excited to launch this pioneering approach that will help meet the health care needs of patients in custody, in a safer, more humane, and more dignified way,” said Dr. Patsy Yang, Senior Vice President for NYC Health + Hospitals/Correctional Health Services. “We believe these therapeutic units will better support healing and recovery for our patients

“NYC Health + Hospitals/Woodhull is proud to be selected as one of two sites to pilot this innovative initiative, which will help provide critical support to this vulnerable population of patients,” said Gregory Calliste, CEO of NYC Health + Hospitals/Woodhull.

“At NYC Health + Hospitals/Bellevue, we have had an extensive and successful history providing health care to patients in custody, and this is a significant opportunity to expand our forensic experience in order to ensure continuity of high quality care by our specialists and subspecialists,” said William Hicks, CEO of NYC Health + Hospitals/Bellevue.

"It is imperative that incarcerated New Yorkers with medical, mental health, and substance use needs can access the necessary care to heal. Creating housing for New Yorkers in custody that centers therapeutic methodology and rehabilitation is an important step towards humanizing our criminal justice system, and preparing incarcerated New Yorkers to thrive when reentering their communities. I thank the Mayor's Office, NYC Health + Hospitals, and Correctional Health Services (CHS) for responding to the call to establish Outposted Therapeutic Housing Units and look forward to seeing the success of this initiative," said State Senator Alessandra Biaggi.

“As we work towards a more humane criminal justice system, we must implement the reforms that were recommended in the Lippman Commission’s report and work towards a jail system that is smaller, safer, and fairer,” said Assembly Member Jo Anne Simon. “I am glad to see that NYC Health + Hospitals/Correctional Health Services has a plan to create 250 Therapeutic Housing Units to help people who are incarcerated consistent with their needs, which will help people with particularly complex medical, mental health, and substance use needs.”

“New York City is taking many steps towards a more just criminal justice system, and these new therapeutic units will be another major milestone,” said Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer. “People with healthcare needs deserve humane treatment, and those in the prison system should not be exempt from dignity while at their most vulnerable.”

“As we continue to drive down the population of incarcerated individuals with serious mental health issues, it is critical to treat those who remain in our custody in an appropriate environment,” said City Council Speaker Corey Johnson. “The Council will work to ensure that individuals who do need specialized medical services are cared for in spaces that are in line with the progressive design principles developed in the process of the borough-based jail plan, and looks forward to engaging with the Administration on how these new facilities will achieve our collective goals.”

“This expansion of Therapeutic Housing Units will allow our city to meet incarcerated patients with the services they need and deserve, so they can successfully re-enter their communities,” said Council Member Diana Ayala. “As Chair of the Committee on Mental Health, Disabilities, and Addiction, I thank Health + Hospitals for spearheading this approach and contributing to our goal of a more humane justice system.”

“I commend the de Blasio administration for taking this important step toward making the criminal justice more person-centered and sensitive toward individual’s mental health care needs,” said Council Member Robert E. Cornegy, Jr. (D-36 Brooklyn). “We must continue to tap in the wealth of resources and expertise offered in our communities, and I am pleased that Woodhull Hospital will be participating in this program. These enhancements in our criminal justice system move us toward a more just society where less people are jailed or imprisoned because of lack of access to mental health care.”

“As we take steps to overhaul our criminal justice system, Therapeutic Housing Units will provide much-needed care while individuals are in custody and address serious health issues in a more appropriate setting. I thank the Mayor’s office for providing this critical resource,” said Council Member Keith Powers.

“The Therapeutic Housing Units announced today are an innovative way to ensure that the incarcerated have access to the care that they need and deserve,” said Council Member Antonio Reynoso. “I am proud that Woodhull Hospital, which serves many residents in my district, will be a part of this creative new initiative. I am glad to see the de Blasio administration spearheading new ways to ensure that we break the cycle of incarceration in New York City.”

"The creation of outposted housing units for incarcerated people with serious health conditions is yet another step towards both reducing the anticipated size of the borough-based jails that will replace the Rikers Island Jails, as well as a means to better care for people in the jails with serious health and mental health conditions," said Vincent Schiraldi, co-director of the Columbia Justice Lab and former Commissioner of New York City Probation. "Bit by bit, the city is safely, effectively and humanely reducing the size of the borough based jails while simultaneously addressing public safety and treatment for people who are incarcerated, a win-win-win for all New Yorkers."

“I applaud the City for making this important improvement to the borough-based jail system plan,” said Regina Myer, President of Downtown Brooklyn Partnership. “Not only will this program result in more efficient, streamlined, and safe operations at the planned detention facility in Downton Brooklyn, it will ensure greater care for inmates in need of critical treatment, and greater security for all.”

“Amazing!  We want to thank the City for taking this important action.  Throughout the ULURP process we urged the city to remove most "therapeutic beds" from its jail size calculations. The large number of detainees and inmates who have mental illness should be treated, not punished.  This is the first step, and a big one, to recognize and humanely meet the needs of our fellow city residents with mental health issues.  We applaud this effort and will continue to work with the City, the City Council and other advocates to further reduce the number of people held in our jails,” said Amy Breedlove, Cobble Hill Association (CHA).

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