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Department of Corrections to Launch Innovative Neuro-Cognitive CARE Unit at SCI Rockview

07/08/2021

Harrisburg, PA – Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (PA DOC) Secretary John Wetzel announced today the creation of a dedicated Neuro-Cognitive CARE Unit (NCCU) at SCI Rockview in Centre County. The specialized unit was conceived to serve the needs of incarcerated individuals diagnosed with dementia and other memory loss diseases.

The NCCU at SCI Rockview will be the first of its kind within the PA DOC. The NCCU will focus on individualized support services that maximize the medical, functional, and social aspects of each patient's treatment. The mission of the NCCU is reinforced by the word CARE in its name, which stands for: Compassion, Assistance, Reassurance, Enhancement.

"Creating this dedicated unit at a centralized location not only allows the PA DOC to provide the appropriate level of care to men suffering from memory loss diseases, but also allows us to reallocate medical resources at other facilities," said Secretary Wetzel. "We anticipate the NCCU concept being scalable to additional prisons, including facilities that house female inmates."

The enhanced, multidisciplinary care needed for this specialized population will be delivered by a medical director, registered nurses (RNs), licensed practical nurses (LPNs), certificate nursing assistants (CNAs), corrections officers, social workers, psychology staff, and therapeutic activities specialists.

The NCCU at SCI Rockview will ensure focused care for up to 12 patients at a time and afford daily therapeutic and leisure activities based on the individual needs and abilities of each patient. Those receiving treatment in the NCCU will have access to many of the same services as other inmates at the facility, as well as the enhanced services provided directly on the unit.   

The unit team will work closely with community partners including the Department of Human Services, the Greater PA Alzheimer's Association, Penn State School of Nursing, Mount Nittany Medical Center, Juniper Village Wellspring Memory Care at Brookline Village, and Comfort Keepers. 

Although the prison population in Pennsylvania has declined significantly in recent years, the inmate population over the age of 50 has grown. As of December 31, 2019, 23 percent of the inmate population was age 50 or higher – up from 10% of the total population in the year 2000. The PA DOC is responsible for end-of-life care for inmates because the commonwealth does not currently provide for medical parole. 

The Wolf Administration supports medical parole, which Governor Tom Wolf included in his 2021-22 state budget proposal and which would help alleviate costs and get the infirm into the appropriate settings at the end of their lives.

 "Most inmates who would be eligible for medical parole are incapacitated and not a security threat," said Secretary Wetzel. "Medical parole is a humane way to alleviate costs while getting the infirm into the appropriate healthcare settings."

Work on the NCCU at SCI Rockview is nearing completion, and the unit will begin accepting patients in the coming weeks.    

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