An Accreditor Has Placed the Downtown Multnomah County Jail on Probation

The review determined the facility was in full compliance with 66% of the “essential standards.”

Multnomah County Justice Center (Joe Riedl)

A national nonprofit that accredits corrections facilities based on health care standards placed the Multnomah County Detention Center on probation following a site visit in the fall.

The National Commission on Correctional Health Care notified the county of its probation status in a Dec. 16 letter addressed to Sheriff Mike Reese. That letter has not been reported until now.

“Although the facility remains accredited, probation is a very serious matter,” vice president of accreditation Amy Panagopoulos wrote. “Failure to appropriately respond to the deficient areas in a timely manner could result in your facility’s loss of accreditation.”

In October, the NCCHC conducted an on-site visit of the jail, which is located inside the Multnomah County Justice Center in downtown Portland. According to the 67-page report that accompanies the letter to Reese, the NCCHC toured the clinic, inmate housing and the intake areas; reviewed documentation like health records and medical staff licenses; and interviewed administrators, medical staff, and two inmates who were selected at random.

The on-site review determined that the jail was in full compliance with 25 of the 38 “essential standards” (66%) and in partial compliance with the remaining 13. It also determined that the jail was in full compliance with 14 of 19 “important standards” (74%) and in partial compliance with the other five. (NCCHC requires 100% compliance with “essential standards” and 85% compliance with “important standards.”)

Panagopoulos wrote that the group would conduct a focused survey by mid-April to verify compliance.

A spokesman for Sheriff Reese deferred to the county for comment. “Since being notified of the evaluation in late December, we have been conducting regular meetings with the sheriff’s office and undertaking an extensive review put in place to adhere to these accreditation requirements,” says Kate Yeiser, a spokeswoman for the county.

Yeiser also notes that most of the issues highlighted by the NCCHC are related to the jail’s policy language rather than quality of care.

“There are no concerns about the clinical outcomes or health care provided overall at our detention centers,” she adds. “Corrections health staff have provided consistent and effective care to adults in custody despite 22 months of a pandemic and more than 130 straight days of social unrest.”

Here are four standards the jail did not meet fully, according to the NCCHC report.

Standard: “Inmate workers, if used, are trained in appropriate methods for handling and disposing of biohazardous materials and spills.”

Reason for partial compliance: “Inmate workers are trained by the officer in the area in which they work; however, there is no formal training program for the officer to follow nor is there documentation of the training of the inmate workers.”

Standard: “The responsible health authority and facility administrator approve the facility’s suicide prevention program.”

Reason for partial compliance: “There was no evidence that the RHA and the facility administrator have approved the suicide prevention program.”

Standard: “On each shift where health staff are present, inventories are maintained on items subject to abuse (e.g., needles, scissors, other sharp instruments) and discrepancies are immediately reported to custody staff.”

Reason for partial compliance: “On each shift where health staff are present, inventories are maintained on items subject to abuse except in the dental clinic. The dental assistant performs a full count of all tools, sharps and needles three times a year. At the end of each dental clinic, the tools and sharps used are inventoried. We conducted a count during the survey and found discrepancies.” (The report adds that, during the visit, the dentist established a new process for maintaining inventories.)

Standard: “All qualified health care professionals have credentials and provide services consistent with the licensure, certification, and registration requirements of the jurisdiction…the [health administrator] maintains verification of current credentials of all qualified health care professionals at a readily accessible location.”

Reason for partial compliance: “While several licenses were presented for review during the survey, we could not verify that all qualified health care professionals had a current license.” (The report notes that the health administrator has designated an off-site credentialing department to manage and verify licenses, and that this credentialing department notifies the administrator when a license nears expiration.)

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