Wisconsin prison system to open 65-bed facility for aging prisoners at Oakhill Correctional

OREGON, Wisconsin – A 65-bed facility catering to the needs of an aging Wisconsin prison population is scheduled to begin admitting patients at the Oakhill Correctional Institution, Oregon, in early 2022.

It’s a milestone in a process that took several years in the Wisconsin Department of Corrections, from budgeting and planning under the Walker administration to Governor Tony Evers.

“Our aging populations, not just in the broader community but in corrections too, urgently need this type of care,” said DOC Secretary Kevin Carr. He, along with a number of other DOC and OCI officials, toured the facility on Tuesday, which was almost ready and waiting for the final equipment and supplies before welcoming inmates.

“It has been slow, but we are ready now,” said Kristine Thome, health director at Oakhill Correctional. “Things take time and a lot of care and thought has gone into this space.”

Short and long term care

A room with 15 beds for the short-term care of inmates who have just undergone major operations such as hip joint operations will be staffed around the clock, with a target quota of 5 nurses per inmate.

The open space that will include dining tables and security guards could be used for other types of care, but is not intended so much for acute care as it is for post-operative care, officials said. In the hallway, inmates can book appointments in a tub therapy room – a room that has been converted from a medical observation room and contains an easily accessible tub and is intended for people who cannot shower or need therapy.

The facility is connected to the lower barracks by an elevator and includes a further 50 beds for long-term care in assisted living. The facility includes a therapy room with exercise equipment and is wheelchair accessible.

Assisted living part 2

Kristine Thome (Health Services Director at Oakhill Correctional) stands in the long-term care room with 50 beds, which is designed for longer stays in assisted living

“Some of our facilities across the state were not designed or built to the same ADA standards that this facility is built to,” said Carr, referring to the Americans with Disabilities Act. “We’re doing our best, but this facility will allow us to provide a higher level of care to the people who need them.”

Eligibility criteria

The facility costs about $ 7 million and only accepts inmates with minimum security as it is located in Oakhill – a minimum security facility.

Of the state’s roughly 20,000 prisoners, about 4,500 were classified as minimum or minimum community security levels as of late October, according to a monthly population tracker on the Department of Corrections website. According to the report, around 400 of those who were in minimum security were 60 years or older. While a person does not necessarily have to be a specific age to be admitted, the facility caters to those with needs that are most commonly found in an older population.

From there, the eligibility criteria has a number of factors, Thome said.

“We look at people with mobility, they have health problems that limit them, they have medical illnesses, chronic illnesses – this is a pretty complete list of things we would go through to say, ‘Someone qualifies to be ‘here’ ”, Thome explained.

The facility was not designed for the acute care or other types of needs treated in other hospitals in the state prison system, Carr said. The facility complements, rather than replaces, other existing medical facilities.

“We’re part of a bigger nursing puzzle,” noted Thome. “Our plan is that the people who live here have goals for themselves, milestones that they must achieve in order to improve their health.”

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