Testimony of Frank Proscia, M.D.,
President of Doctors Council SEIU
Before the New York City Council Criminal Justice and Fire Committee
May 6, 2015
Good Afternoon Chair Crowley and members of the Criminal Justice and Fire Committee. My name is Dr. Frank Proscia and I am the President of Doctors Council SEIU which represents thousands of doctors in the Metropolitan area, including in every HHC facility, the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, New York City School Health Program, and New York City jails including Rikers and Vernon C. Baines Correctional Barge. Thank you for the opportunity to testify today.
Doctors Council SEIU is here today to voice support for the package of bills that seek to examine violence in New York City’s jails and the City’s response. The collection and reporting of data offers greater transparency in examining the root causes of violence and can provide concrete information to foster potential solutions that are sorely needed.
Our doctors are doing exceptional work providing patient care on Rikers Island in a challenging setting. Inmates deserve the fundamental right of access to quality healthcare and as such, we believe that certain measures could increase access to that care.
The environment in which doctors, nurses and other healthcare staff operate has clear implications for patient care. Our partnership with DOC, and its role in connecting the inmates with clinics, is critically important.
To that end, we would like to weigh in on four bills in particular which we feel are important to promoting a secure work setting and increasing inmates’ access to healthcare.
First, Doctors Council supports Intro 0643 requiring that the DOC provide a monthly report regarding the number of inmates who are on a waiting list for restrictive housing and clinical alternative to punitive segregation units. Our clinicians believe that programs like CAPS and PACE are promising, but the demand for these programs is much greater than current availability leaving too many inside Rikers underserved. Everyday events, both inside and outside Rikers, underscore the fact that our corrections facilities need more space and staffing for mental health intervention – that should be a priority.
Second, we support Intro 0768 which would require the DOC to report on enhanced supervision housing. As this is a new housing unit, we want to make sure that appropriate health services and physical plant conditions are in place. Medical rounds must be conducted safely and confidentially. We believe there are protocols that still need to be ironed out.
Doctors Council SEIU supports efforts described in Intro 0759 to report on cases of injuries to inmates and staff in city jails. Staff injuries have been on the rise in recent years and Doctors Council is committed to improving safety protocols and physical infrastructure to ensure that all healthcare professionals can do their jobs safely and provide the best care possible. In addition to collecting stats on incidents, it is critical that these matters are indeed treated as serious crimes and referred to the appropriate DA’s office so as to serve as a deterrent.
Recently, during monthly safety meetings among agencies at Rikers, there were discussions that GMDC lacks appropriate egress in the mental health treatment area in case of an emergency. This is an important physical plant issue that remains unaddressed and that could potentially lead to a violent incident.
Lastly, we are encouraged by Intro 0770 and the proposal requiring that the DOC establish a crisis intervention program. Our doctors are ready, willing and able to weigh in on protocols to improve responses to crises. We recommend that the doctors at Rikers Island, especially the psychiatrists, be included in the course of planning and training for the crisis intervention teams.
Thank you for the opportunity to testify today.