Gaston County Sheriff's Office Wins State Public Health Award
On September 26, 2019 The Gaston County Sheriff’s Office was presented the Partners in Public Health Award at the North Carolina Public Health Association’s Annual Meeting. Established in 1998, this award is given to organizations and professionals outside of public health departments who have made significant contributions to public health in North Carolina over the past year.
The Award acknowledges the work within the Sheriff’s Office to partner with the Gaston County Department of Health & Human Services (DHHS) to create the Gaston County Jail Reproductive Health Program. This program was initiated in April, 2018 as a collaboration between DHHS staff and the Gaston County Sheriff’s Department. Realizing that many of the women at the county jail were not coming to receive medical care or contraceptive services after being released, DHHS and Sheriff Department staff decided to eliminate transportation barriers after release to ensure inmates are able to receive reproductive health education and contraception if they wanted it while incarcerated.
The program provides reproductive health education and long acting contraceptive methods, in addition to other care, to female inmates at the jail. When done properly, providing long-acting reversible contraceptives to female inmates while incarcerated is an effective way to reduce unplanned pregnancy and Neo-natal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS) among newborns. Research shows that women who are incarcerated are more likely to both abuse substances and have unplanned pregnancies. Research also shows that those women are far more likely to obtain contraceptive services if offered to them during a time of incarceration as opposed to seeking them out outside of the criminal justice system. In one year of the program, there were179 patients reached through education with 169 clinical patient visits.
“The Gaston County Sheriff’s Office is honored to be recognized for the partnership we have with Gaston County DHHS,” said Sheriff Alan Cloninger. “We have and will continue to work together to try to improve the lives of women by preventing unwanted pregnancies and promoting better health.”
“We are thrilled to have our local Sheriff’s Office recognized for their outstanding contribution to public health,” shared DHHS Director Chris Dobbins. “It is our job to protect the health of all citizens, and helping local women in our jail prevent unplanned pregnancies helps reduce their barriers to recovery and self-sufficiency in addition to allowing women to better plan for healthy pregnancies.”
Pictured From Left to Right:
Chris Dobbins, DHHS Director; Dr. Velma Taormina, DHHS Medical Director; Sheriff Alan Cloninger; Leigh Yount, Health Education Supervisor, DHHS; Kim Johnson, Chief Deputy, Gaston County Sheriff’s Office; Cheri Singleton, Personal Health Services Administrator, DHHS; Steve Eaton, Public Health Director, DHHS