Department of Corrections announces changes to healthcare and equity

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On Monday, the Vermont Department of Corrections held a meeting to talk about the department’s new health care provider, as well as changes to things like recruiting, training, and impartiality practices.

Starting on July 1st, VitalCore Health Strategies took over as the new healthcare provider for the Department of Corrections. Commissioner Jim Baker said changes being made are vital for the future of the department and he is excited to work with VitalCore

“It is a big piece of our budget and it is important that we provide the absolute best health care to the folks that we are responsible for,” said Baker.

Baker feels that VitalCore redefines the way health care is provided in prisons. Viola Riggen is the Chief Executive Officer for VitalCore. On the call, she explained how their mission is different from other healthcare providers in prisons.

“We are making sure that in the industry, that we try to break down the walls, that we provide care internally, just as you would get it externally,” said Riggen.

Baker also announced the newly formed Office of Professional Standards will replace former Office of Professional Developments and Training. The department will be looking to diversify the workforce and use data to improve. Leading those efforts is longtime DOC employee Heather Simons.

“We can combine efforts on conversations that many of us have been having for decades, constituencies, in terms of outreach understanding where our communities are coming from, what family members think, and what family members are thinking in terms of the care we are giving, but equally what family members of our workforce are needing to hear from us,” said Simons.

Baker took the time to reflect on an incident that happened in December when an inmate by the name of Kenneth Johnson died in custody of the Vermont DOC. Baker says these new changes are critical. An investigation into that incident is still ongoing

In terms of the pandemic, VitalCore said they have a COVID call every day discussing the latest with what’s happening and protocol. Inmates in Vermont are being tested on a regular basis.

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