CBHJ, School of Medicine and Wayne County develop toolkit of COVID-19 mitigation strategies for Michigan county jails

Stock photo of COVID-19 TestThe Wayne State University School of Social Work Center for Behavioral Health and Justice (CBHJ) collaborated with the Wayne County Jail to identify key mitigation strategies county jails can use to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in their facilities. The toolkit provides guidance for implementation of testing, contact tracing, information sharing, and discharge planning, along with examples of practices put in place in the Wayne County Jail.

Detroit was impacted early by the 2019 novel Coronavirus (COVID-19), including staff and detainees at the Wayne County Jail. As the disease spread across Michigan and mitigation efforts began to emerge, county administrators worked with the Wayne State University School of Social Work Center for Behavioral Health and Justice (CBHJ) and the School of Medicine (WSU-SOM) to formulate strategies to slow the spread of the virus. Funding was provided from the Michigan Justice Fund help to facilitate the collaborative efforts of community, public health, social work, criminal-legal judicial stakeholders and the development of four COVID-19 Mitigation Strategies that are expanded within the toolkit: 1) COVID-19 Testing, 2) Community Contact Tracing, 3) Information Sharing, 4) Discharge Planning.

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“Incarceration settings account for a large portion of the COVID-19 outbreaks nationally, surpassing other vulnerable settings such as nursing homes and food processing plants, so mitigating the spread in these facilities should be key to any community mitigation efforts” says CBHJ Director Brad Ray. Combining jail testing data with data regarding the surrounding community and region, is important in informing decisions related to jail operations. Since March 2020, jails across the country have taken various measures to prevent COVID-19 transmission, including verbal screening, decarceration, restricting movement within facilities, prohibiting visitation, and suspending internal programming. However, few have implemented testing or implemented effective data measures.

“This toolkit will provide better access to information and protocols on limiting contact with COVID-19 in our jails,” said Jennifer Caruso, Wayne County Clinical Services Division Director. The goal of the toolkit is to provide the experience and knowledge gained thus far in Wayne County (Detroit) to other public county jails, as well as, outline key considerations for jail facilities, and the successes, or barriers, of recommended practices from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other criminal justice, public health, and community stakeholders. With this in mind, mitigation strategies will look different for each jail depending on a number of factors. The recommendations contained in this toolkit should not supersede guidance from governing entities, such as State health and correctional departments or local public health agencies.

View the toolkit to learn more or contact the CBHJ for more information.

About the Center for Behavioral Health and Justice: The Center for Behavioral Health and Justice in Wayne State University’s School of Social Work envisions communities in which research, data, and best practices are used by multiple stakeholders to enhance the optimal well-being of individuals with mental illness and/or substance use disorders who come into contact with the criminal/legal system. Learn more

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