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Supervisor Solis calls for more nurse practitioners in county jails

A nurse at the South Los Angeles Family Health Clinic.
Mae Ryan/KPCC
A nurse at the South Los Angeles Family Health Clinic.

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday will consider a motion that could nearly double the number of nurse practitioners working in county jails.

The proposal, by board Chairwoman Hilda Solis, directs the county Department of Health Services to identify a program to train up to 20 registered nurses who work in the jails to become family nurse practitioners or psychiatric nurse practitioners.

There are currently 24 nurse practitioners staffing the jails, according to the motion.

Nurse practitioners "help set the tone for high quality patient care, show great concern for the inmates general well-being and advocate for integrated care," says Solis. "Expanding this workforce in the jail will only make us better at serving the health needs of those in our custody." 

It's difficult to find and retain health care providers willing to work in correctional health facilities, the motion notes.

Nurse practitioners can fill that gap by providing intake assessments, urgent care, primary care and HIV care. They are also cost-effective, as their training costs and salaries are significantly lower than those of physicians.

If the supervisors approve Solis' motion, the county would select an 18-month training program. Participants would be required to commit to a number of years of service as a nurse practitioner in the jail system in exchange for receiving the training at no charge.

The contract for the program should cost no more than $600,000, according to the motion, although a Solis spokeswoman says the supervisor would also expect the county to fill the positions of any RNs who become nurse practitioners.