DHS Official Tells APHA Conference More Effective Detention Healthcare Is Being Planned

Homeland Security official Beth Gibson tried to put a kinder face on immigration detention health care in a November 9 talk to health professionals at the American Public Health Association annual meeting in Philadelphia. Instead of making detention center health staff pre-clear, and therefore pre-justify, every medical procedure that is referred to health professionals outside the prison walls, Homeland Security policy under consideration, according to Gibson, would devise a list of treatments that are "pre-approved." Only more unusual services—such as CAT scans—would require special advance approval.This is welcome news from Ms. Gibson, who, as Senior Councilor to the Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security?John Morton, surely appreciates the human costs of unjustified delays in detention health care that have been reported in the press and by human rights groups.Still, the policy doesn't go far enough in the opinion of a number of health professionals who attended the APHA session, chaired by detention health expert Homer Venters, MD, at which Ms. Gibson spoke. One participant called for health professionals to support comprehensive immigration reform, which would decrease the number of persons in the US who are amenable to detention in the first place. Leaders in the Jail and Prison interest group of APHA also called on health professionals to become much more involved in supporting reforms to immigration detention policy.

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