Raising Standards of Correctional Healthcare

by Sara Browning

Advanced Correctional Healthcare provides care, manages risk and contains costs for thousands of clients nationwide.

When Advanced Correctional Healthcare makes a promise to deliver unsurpassed services, they stand by it. Perhaps that is why sheriffs, jailers, jail administrators, directors and county officials recognize the business as offering a higher standard of healthcare.

“Our clients actively refer their colleagues to us,” says Dr. Norman R. Johnson, chief executive officer and co-principal of the Peoria-based firm. “We function with an expert team of professionals to provide services for persons who are incarcerated in jails or prisons… Our role is to build consistent standards and structure in correctional healthcare in jails and prisons to improve the healthcare of inmates and protect our clients from unnecessary lawsuits.” In this role, ACH is committed to 230 clients across 17 states, providing care for more than 28,000 lives.

Dr. Johnson has been fortunate to share this success with his wife and business partner, Brenda Johnson, who is vice chairman of the board of directors and sits on all of ACH’s major committees. “I am involved with a number of special projects,” she explains. “I perform financial review. I also review costs and invoices, and I oversee hiring.” With 16 years of business experience as the previous owner of Johnson Fine Jewelry, Bridal, Gifts, Brenda appreciates having her husband as a partner. “We’ve been married 52 years, so we’ve been partners in whatever we’ve done.”

With ACH, the couple has made delivering quality care a top priority. “Our vision is to function as a successful, innovative leader, delivering a higher standard of correctional healthcare and exceptional services with professionalism, integrity and commitment,” says Dr. Johnson. “This is our pledge to our clients.”

Growth & Development
Dr. Johnson began his career in private practice, working with a large group of primary doctors and sub-specialists in Pekin for 20 years. On April 18, 2002, he established Advanced Correctional Healthcare, and by the end of the year, ACH had signed nine contracts. By 2007, its clientele had grown to 89 clients, and today, the business has 230 clients.

It was this rapid growth which led to Advanced Correctional Healthcare being listed as one of Inc. 5000’s fastest growing healthcare companies in both 2007 and 2012. “For us to hit this twice was an amazing thing,” says Dr. Johnson. “This is nationwide. We attribute this honor and our amazing growth to our commitment to our clients. We are presently the largest provider of healthcare for jails in Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Minnesota and other states.”

Starting with just a dozen employees, ACH counts 650 on staff today, including 35 in the Peoria office. “When we service our clients well, they begin to market us. When our clients call our office, we never place them on hold or voicemail, even if we’re in a meeting. They appreciate the fact that we value them and treat them with professionalism.”

When clients partner with ACH, they are partnering with a team that honors dependability, loyalty and strong ethics to lead the delivery of correctional healthcare. “When our clients are successful, we are successful,” states Dr. Johnson. “We practice resourcefulness and courtesy with our clients to ensure their highest professional development.”

“And if we part with a client, we always leave with the door open,” adds Brenda. With her focus on recruiting professionals who not only bear the necessary skills and qualifications, but also exemplify the business’ values, ACH is poised to maintain its lasting partnerships.

Delivering Professional Service
Among the services ACH offers are medical programs, mental health services, training and education, risk reduction and management, and cost control and containment. The ACH Medical Program encompasses physician and nursing services, pharmaceuticals, inpatient and outpatient hospital services, mental health screenings, specialty services and consults, dental services, laboratory and radiology services, emergency transportation, medical supplies and management services. Working with individual clients to analyze their current system, inmate population and healthcare concerns, ACH develops customized programs to meet their healthcare goals.

The ACH corporate medical team and onsite director are available to assist patients 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. Medical professionals can be reached by cell phone and return messages in 15 minutes or less. In order to guarantee access to a medical professional at any time, ACH provides a physician call schedule containing contact information for three medical professionals.

Mental health services are also available through ACH if contracted for by the jails. “Site physicians are trained to handle addiction medicine on field training and patient consultation,” Dr. Johnson says, noting that jails are increasingly responsible to care for the mentally ill, as many community mental health services have closed their doors. The Mental Health Program lessens the burden placed on jailers, sheriffs and county officials by providing evaluation, prevention and intervention; multidisciplinary treatment plans; medication management; and staff training, among other services.

ACH also provides accredited training and educational DVDs, seminars and individualized site- and state-specific instruction for clients on medical and mental health topics to more than 15,000 law enforcement and correctional officers, as well as medical and mental health professionals in county jails and detention centers. The ACH Speakers Bureau includes nationally recognized instructors and experts in substance abuse, mental health, public health and addiction.

“We offer continuing education for our doctors three times per year,” says Dr. Johnson. “We released five or six training videos this year. Because our doctors are educated to do the right thing, we never have to call corporate to get permission to do anything, which saves time for our clients and for us.”

Risk management services are a vital part of ACH, as today’s healthcare costs, coupled with the risk of lawsuits, pressures correctional facilities to find ways to control costs while complying with national standards. Through the ACH Risk Management Program, county jail facilities can control costs while providing a higher standard of care and decreasing the likelihood of lawsuits. The program provides civil rights insurance coverage, nursing protocols, in-service training, and inmate health education, among other services. Its approach to cost containment is a multifaceted effort, with services encompassing the best pricing and efficiency, a fairness policy, and education, including training sessions focusing on inmate healthcare needs and proper prescribing habits.

ACH also offers an Advanced Purchasing Program that allows clients to buy medical supplies at the best possible prices. “Sheriff departments, jail facilities, county entities all experience tremendous savings in cost areas like food, cleaning supplies, inmate housing needs, capital equipment and office supplies,” Dr. Johnson claims. “We care about our clients, and we go above and beyond to give them the care they deserve.”

Advancing a Legacy
Dr. Norman and Brenda Johnson have been fortunate to share their business success with their family. The couple works with their daughter, son-in-law, grandson-in-law and two granddaughters, while another granddaughter works as a consultant in Washington State.

“Our work is an opportunity to keep our family close by,” says Dr. Johnson. “It binds us together and gives the whole office a feeling of family. We treat everyone in the office like family—not just our own family members.” The improvement of healthcare for incarcerated detainees, he adds, will serve as the company’s legacy. “The advancement of the quality and structure of healthcare in jails in general, and small jails in particular, is something that’s never been accomplished before.”

Advanced Correctional Healthcare is also leaving a legacy in the communities it serves. Here in central Illinois, the company supports the Peoria Riverfront Museum, Peoria Zoo, Boy Scouts of America, Boys and Girls Clubs, Peoria Art Guild, Peoria Historical Society and Bradley University.

Meanwhile, nationwide, correctional healthcare is poised to go through a massive change, according to Dr. Johnson. “And we want to be on the cutting edge when this happens.” iBi

Advanced Correctional Healthcare is located at 3922 W. Baring Trace in Peoria. For more information, visit advancedch.com or call (866) 719-8100.

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