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Health care program in county jail utilizes staffing in new ways, rather than adding more

The Allegheny County Jail.
Kiley Koscinski
90.5 WESA News

On today’s episode of The Confluence: The Allegheny County Jail is implementing a new health care program for incarcerated people, we discuss how will this improve access in a facility that’s seen five inmate deaths this year; a look at voter turnout this midterm election; and how one company is trying to build a manufacturing plant for plastic alternatives in the region. 

Today’s guests include: Dr. Ashley Brinkman, health systems administrator at the Allegheny County Jail; and Kadida Kenner, chief executive officer of the New Pennsylvania Project.

On today’s episode of The Confluence: 

County jail spreads health care staff throughout facility in new program 
(0:00 - 10:02)

The Allegheny County Jail changed how it’s providing health care to those incarcerated in the facility. Dr. Ashley Brinkman is the jail’s health services administrator, and says that this program makes logistics easier because health care teams are assigned to levels of the facility rather than through a central location.

Brinkman says it also can reduce response time. However, the county jail did not add new health care staff for this program.

“We're using the same resources that we had before, but we're using them differently,” says Brinkman. “And it seems to be first run results of the program shows us that we're actually working a little more efficiently than we were before.”

According to the most recent warden’s report, the jail is short more than 65 healthcare staff.

Brinkman says the jail will be evaluating the results of this change, examining wait times, follow-up care and referrals.

PA voter turnout project works year-round, rather than just during campaign season
(10:02 - 17:49)

Voter turnout in Allegheny County increased to 60% in the Nov. 8 election, compared to 58% in the 2018 midterms. This mirrors statewide increases in turnout.

Kadida Kenner, the chief executive officer for the New Pennsylvania Project,, a voter registration and mobilization effort, says they work year-round, independent of any particular campaign or party to register under-represented communities, such as immigrants and youth.

Kenner says mail-in voting has made a difference in getting more people not just registered but able to vote.

“Election Day for us in Pennsylvania is a Tuesday, in addition to the fact that now that we have early voting, which so many took advantage of, which we're so appreciative of, because that is how we're going to get folks mobilized to the polls,” says Kenner. “And so we can have conversations about getting you registered to vote. But the mobilization effort is much different in getting folks to actually show up to the polls on Election Day or complete a mail-in ballot that will not get rejected.”

Members from the New Pennsylvania Project will be going down to Georgia to do voter mobilization work ahead of the runoff election for U.S Senate.

Biodegradable straw business deciding between Pittsburgh and Austin, Texas. 
(17:49 - 22:30)

Drinking straws have become a poster child for the harms of single-use plastic. They don’t biodegrade, and when they end up in the ocean, they can get stuck in animals’ noses, throats, and stomachs. Lots of companies have started to make alternatives, and Pittsburgh business leaders want to bring those types of manufacturers to the region. 90.5 WESA’s An-Li Herring reportson one company that’s considering the move.

The Confluence, where the news comes together, is 90.5 WESA’s daily news program. Tune in Monday to Thursday at 9 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. to hear newsmakers and innovators take an in-depth look at stories important to the Pittsburgh region. Find more episodes of The Confluence here or wherever you get your podcasts. 

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