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Advocates see ‘slow’ progress on Utah State Correctional Facility medication and mosquito issues

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Briana Scroggins
Special to KUER
From the main road that runs through the campus you can see the maximum security facility, labeled with an A, at the new Utah State Correctional Facility in Salt Lake City, June 6, 2022.

The Utah Department of Corrections is responding after families of inmates spoke out about conditions at the new state correctional facility in Salt Lake City. Advocates had seen an uptick in a range of complaints from medication access to a mosquito infestation.

In terms of the issues that led to inmates not being able to access prescribed medication, the UDC said that was due to “glitches” in a new medical records system known as Fusion.

The medication issues are starting to ease, said Utah Prisoner Advocate Network Director and Co-founder Molly Prince. However, there are still lingering questions about inmates accessing medical care outside of the facility.

“It appears they’re making slow progress, but we’ve heard some concerns about the coordination between the U of U doctors and the clinical services bureau doctors at the Utah State Correctional Facility,” she said.

At an Aug. 25 briefing, the corrections department said it is working to get medication to the inmates that need it, which included bringing in the help of more than two dozen medical staff from the Utah Department of Health and Human Services.

“We’re within days of having a more normal operation and knowing that we’re delivering the services that we know we’re required to,” said Executive Director Brian Nielson.

Some families still say care is lacking at the new facility.

“[Inmates] continue to submit medical requests, but the emphasis is being placed on the issue of prescriptions, so medical appointments are lagging,” said Karen Thompson, whose son is at the facility. “Our goal is to keep this issue in the forefront and to assist by encouraging those individuals affected to use the inmate care request system to document the request and to allow the medical clinic to prioritize care and resources.”

Nielson said the medical staff sees “hundreds” of inmates per day and triage care is based on inmates’ individual needs. Despite the issues with the new medical software, he said the plan is to still move forward with the system.

“It would be very, very difficult to go backward to the system that we left,” he said. “The pathway I see to success is going forward with Fusion at this time.”

In addition to the technical issues, Nelson added that staffing shortages also continue to affect the prison system.

As for the issue of mosquitos, Prince said there has been some progress, but concerns have been raised about abatement measures negatively impacting wildlife in the area.

“Now, there's some sort of balance between making sure that incarcerated people and staff members are protected from mosquitoes while ensuring that the wildlife has a right to live there too,” she said. ”It’s such a complicated issue.”

Sean is KUER’s politics reporter.
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