It?s Your Health: What?s Health Got to Do With It? Cost-cutting is the bottom line!

by: Diana Block
In November 2009, California prisoners received notification that many of the daily medicines and vitamins they have relied on to keep themselves healthy and manage routine colds, coughs and stomach problems would no longer
be available through the pharmacy. Cough drops, digestive aids, muscle
rub and vitamins were among the many items that will now have to be paid for and many of these may not even available through canteen or the vendor package system. The notice claimed that there isn?t proof that these items actually help one?s health. The real reason for the change is to cut costs? and
to do it at the expense of prisoners? health!
When a Federal Receiver was first appointed to the California prison system in 2006, prisoners began to get better access to care. After months of sensational media accusations that the current Receiver, Clark Kelso, is seeking ?Cadillac
care? for prisoners, he shifted his focus away from the mission of the Receivership? protecting prisoner health. His new focus is on controlling costs to comply with comply with Gov. Schwarzenegger?s mandate to cut $811 million
from next year?s prison health care budget.
Kelso?s proposals include further restrictions on the use of prescription drugs and outside medical specialists, expansion of telemedicine (where patients only
see doctors via video conferencing), and allowing temporary medical parole for prisoners who are physically incapacitated. While medical parole might be worthwhile, Kelso made it clear that the motivation, ??is a budget issue,
not compassionate release. It?s not ?Oh we feel sorry for these people.?
This is simply the most cost-effective way to provide treatment.? (AP 3/16/2010)
Kelso also created bottlenecks preventing prisoners from gaining compassionate release. He continues to push for building a new multi-million dollar, 1,734-bed prison hospital in Stockton. New prison hospitals are not the answer to the prisoner health care crisis. First and foremost, the prison
population has to be reduced to provide basic medical treatment, as the three-judge panel ruled in August 2009. Preventive medicine, a decent diet, and the elimination of the co-pay system could improve health care now without building new prison hospitals.
Write to the Receiver and tell him that cutting access to vitamins and digestive aids will not save money in the long run and will only make the prison health crisis worse: Clark Kelso, California Prison Health Care Services, PO Box 4038, Sacramento, CA 95812- 4038.
Or call the Inmate Health Care Inquiry Line at 916-324-1403 with your concerns.