Maryland officials report progress in an effort to identify and treat the disproportionate number of inmates who arrive in state prisons with chronic conditions such as HIV, hepatitis-C infections and diabetes, reports the Baltimore Sun. State data suggest there are now more healthy prisoners among the 26,000 incarcerated in Maryland facilities — and that’s good public policy, officials say. More diseases are being controlled and fewer costly hospital trips are needed, making the system more efficient. And when offenders return to their communities, they’re healthier and less likely to infect others.
Not everyone agrees that enough prisoners are getting sufficient care, despite a constitutional mandate. More troubling for cities such as Baltimore, the public health benefit may be fleeting, experts say. Few prisoners are linked to continuing health care when they are freed, and they again become sick. Those inside and outside the long-troubled state system agreed that changes were needed. A lawsuit in the 1970s sparked federal intervention. A 2002 report highlighted 45 health-related to issues, and serious change began in 2005 when state officials dumped a much-criticized health care contractor. The contract was split into five parts, and funding was increased by about 60 percent to more than $150 million a year to keep pace with growing health care and drug costs.