DOC announces contract with national corrections health care expert

Washington State Department of Corrections (DOC) Secretary Cheryl Strange announced on Tuesday the DOC has contracted with a national expert on prison medical care to support DOC Health Services. Strange, who was appointed to the role of DOC secretary in April, announced Dr. Homer Venters is being retained to work on “systemic improvements directly related to patient care in the state’s prison facilities.”

 

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Venters is a physician, epidemiologist, and the Senior Health and Justice Fellow at the Community Oriented Correctional Health Services (COCHS). Previously, Venters served as Director of Programs for Physicians for Human Rights and as the Chief Medical Officer for the New York City Jail System.

Tuesday’s announcement comes after several recent investigations shed light on delayed and inadequate care in Washington State correctional facilities. A January Office of the Corrections Ombuds (OCO) investigative report found delays in cancer diagnosis and treatment at DOC facilities led to the death of at least one patient, and terminal diagnoses for several others.

Strange says Dr. Venters’ past experience will help drive improvements in DOC Health Services.

“When Governor Inslee appointed me to lead the Department of Corrections, it was clear he wanted to see great improvements in the health services for the individuals under our care. Dr. Venter’s expertise in correctional health care can help us make the best decisions for effective improvements in Health Services that will have the greatest impact on patient care.”

A statement from DOC says Venters directs several initiatives related to health and justice at COCHS, including efforts to reduce traumatic brain injury among staff and detainees. He is also working to promote access to evidence-based addiction treatment.

DOC’s Chief Medical Officer Sara Kariko says:

“Our team is eager to progress, and I’m confident his consultation will help us see progress much faster to support the health and well-being of each and every individual under our jurisdiction.”