As president of my local, I have asked management to contact me when a represented staff gets hurt on or off the job. Unfortunately, I get contacted too much. Last year we had 171 fights and 425 people involved, fortunately for corrections staff most of the fights are between inmates. This is about the average number of fights and those assaulted for the last five years. Last year, we had 15 staff assaulted alone. There has been multiple times when I arrive at the hospital and our staff is faced with a tough decision. If an inmates blood (Or other body fluids) get on the staff and they have an open wound (or it gets in their eyes or mouth), they have to choose between taking medication that will make them sick or risk the possible infection into their body.
The only way currently, we can get information about if the inmate is infected, is to have the inmate sign a release. Most do not sign the release, so we are faced with contacting our union attorney and filing legal paperwork with the court to force the release of this information. This process takes a while to say the least. The need for this information is critical because one in three inmates has Hepatitis C, and one in two hundred has HIV. This is much higher than the normal population outside of the walls.
One time that I was with staff at the hospital, I had a doctor express his frustration about not being able to get this information. I decided to see why this information can’t be obtained. It has to do with HIPPA laws and the unwillingness of DOC to release this information to another outside provider. The medical staff working for the Department of Correction is not allow to treat us, so we have no other option than going to the hospital.
If the staff member chooses to take the medication, it makes them very sick. I am told that it is similar to taking chemotherapy. They can be off work from one week to over a month recovering from this process. For the next year, they have to do blood checks to monitor their body and they have to distance them from their own spouse and kids. I am told that the first dose of medication costs approximately $1,2000.
Bryan Branstetter and I approached our Senator, Bill Hansell and Representative Greg Barreto to see if we could get a bill introduced that would bypass the current restriction on passing of this information to a health care provider. Senator Hansell introduced SB 367 which addresses this issue. Our AFSCME lobbyists went to work behind the scene and got SB 367 a hearing. We had many AFSCME members and staff present at the hearing on SB 367 on March 7th, 2017. At the conclusion of the hearing, one of the Senate Health Care Committee members, Senator Elizabeth Steiner Hayward asked to be added to the bill as a sponsor. Senator Elizabeth Steiner Hayward MD, is a doctor and also asked that we expand the bill to include all first responders as well. We would love to have this happen and appreciate her support.
Local 3361 President
Conservative Caucus Chairman