CoreCivic’s medical and dental staff do more than distribute medications and care for the sick. Their work has the power to transform inmates’ lives and put them on the path toward successful reentry.
“We see our patients as people first, inmates second,” said Valerie Snapp, BSN, CNS, clinical supervisor at CoreCivic’s Citrus County Detention Facility in Florida. “Our nurses are here to treat illnesses and, in some circumstances, even save lives. We’re not here to judge, but to provide care, listen and empathize.”
Snapp's team was recently honored with the Citrus County Chronicle’s Readers’ Choice Award for being "Healthcare Heroes" in their community. With a staff of 13 full-time nurses, a nurse practitioner and a medical director, the health clinic is available 24 hours, seven days a week to provide a wide variety of health services for those in our care.
“All too often, for many offenders, the first time they receive comprehensive health care is upon becoming incarcerated,” said Dr. Keith Ivens, CoreCivic chief medical officer. “That’s why all inmates are screened upon entering a CoreCivic facility so that our medical professionals can manage existing concerns and address any new diagnoses.”
With these priorities in mind, the Citrus health care team identifies chronic health issues, and gets inmates started with substance abuse treatment, medication for their health conditions, and lifestyle modifications to put them on the path to a healthier future.
While caring for inmates’ medical conditions, the Citrus health care staff frequently provides a different sort of healing too.
“Often inmates come in with nobody caring for them on the outside,” said Sean Hennebery, Citrus case manager and public information officer. “If they start feeling comfortable with the nursing staff, we can break down that wall they have around their heart, and that can make all the difference.”
This sort of healing isn’t limited to health clinics. Dental clinics also offer opportunities to change lives. The dental staff at La Palma Correctional Center in Eloy, Arizona, is known for building impactful relationships with inmates and helping put them on the path toward improved self-esteem.
“Our patients feel vulnerable in the dental chair, and often open up to us in ways they might not with anyone else in their lives,” said Jodi Manterola, a dental hygienist at La Palma. “They know we truly care, and that lets us have conversations about why the health of their mouth is important and how it can impact their future.”
Manterola enjoys correctional dentistry because she sees inmates leave healthier than when they came in, and knows she is making a difference in their lives.
“For many offenders, money and other challenges made dental care an impossibility before coming here,” she said. “I love my job because I get to provide life-changing care. In a correctional dental clinic, we get to spend as much time as we need to give patients the care they deserve. Our work isn’t dictated by a schedule that says we have to be ready for the next patient in 30 minutes. Being able to provide the highest-quality care is rewarding professionally, and even more than that, the inmates truly appreciate everything that we do for them.
While inmates appreciate the visible improvement in their smile, thanks to Manterola and other dental staff, they also leave understanding how dental health impacts their overall wellbeing. “Because of the relationships we build, inmates trust us and we’re able to educate them about how stroke, heart disease and other chronic conditions can be related to poor dental hygiene,” she said.
CoreCivic Chief Dental Officer Dr. Steve Merrill agrees.
The dental care we provide at CoreCivic facilities can open doors for offenders as they seek to reenter their communities in positive ways,” said Merrill. “From restoring teeth to improving an inmate's overall health, correctional dental care providers are often unsung heroes in helping inmates turn their lives around.”
By building a bond of trust between inmates and their care providers, medical and dental staff at CoreCivic can educate inmates, raise their self-esteem and set them on a healthier life path. With better health, higher self-worth and improved decision-making, inmates can break free of the cycle of crime and live successful lives after release from prison.