In the eye of the storm

In the eye of the stormWith Hurricane Irma bearing down on Florida earlier this month, first responders throughout the state mobilized to help ensure the health and safety of everyone in the path of what was promised to be a catastrophic event. Residents of county jails were no exception.

Corizon Health provides correctional healthcare services in six Florida counties geographically distributed across the state. The size and course of the storm guaranteed that all but one of our partners – Okaloosa County in the state’s Panhandle – would be impacted by the storm.

Preparing a jail for a potential natural disaster requires close coordination between corrections and medical. The strong partnerships we’ve built with the sheriff offices we serve allowed us to meet the healthcare needs of our inmate patients.

Preparation began at each site in earnest about three days before the storm was scheduled to hit. Regular emergency management meetings were held that included jail medical staff. Deputies fueled all vehicles and generators, ensured all flashlights and back-up batteries were fully charged and stocked the jail with supplies. Medical staff met with jail administrators to review patient records and determine those who could not safely weather the storm under lock-down conditions. For example, pregnant inmates in their final weeks of pregnancy were moved to hospitals.

Our regional and site leaders in Florida have had a great deal of experience operating healthcare services in jails impacted by hurricanes. They organized teams of nurses who volunteered to be locked down in their respective facilities for the duration of the storm with secondary teams on stand-by to relieve them as soon as it was safe to do so.

Meanwhile, Corizon Health staff throughout the country mobilized to help ensure the health and safety of our patients in Florida. Corizon’s in-house pharmacy, PharmaCorr, staged medicine supplies in the event normal distribution channels were interrupted, and our Healthcare Support Team identified nurses with Florida licenses at our facilities across the country who could be deployed in Florida if necessary. Many more Corizon doctors and nurses stepped forward to volunteer to help if needed and permitted to do so by the state.

One great example of Corizon Health employees springing into action – Dr. Maria Garcia and Courtnee Stephens, both of Leon County – were able to fly throughout Florida personally delivering healthcare, supplies and other aide to hundreds affected by Irma.

Fortunately, all of our facilities weathered the storm safely though the Polk County Jail went a week without power and several of our staff have had to personally contend with flooding and extended loss of power and communications.