A simplified and cheaper way to provide these services has come in the form of a partnership with the Bradley County Health Department.
The partnership led to the establishment of a medical room at the juvenile justice center earlier this month.
juvenile court director Terry Gallaher said there has always been a need for consistent medical care.
Many of the children have not received regular medical care before being arrested.
“They are here and they have a lot of needs, physical as well as emotional, so that’s what we’re screening for,” health department director Eloise Waters said.
A nurse is on site Monday through Friday for at least two hours. Waters said this may be extended in the future depending on need.
Waters said public health nurses have to be good with people. She said she asked the nurses who would like to volunteer to serve at the juvenile justice center first.
Waters said registered nurses will provide wellness exams and immunizations as needed.
Gallaher said the nurses can also help with medications the children are taking or issues that arise such as scabies or lice.
The nurses can also provide sexually transmitted disease screening and treatment, and tuberculosis skin testing. Pregnancy testing will be provided when deemed necessary by the nurse.
Previously, when a child in custody needed medical attention he or she had to be transported to a hospital or walk-in clinic, depending on which was open at the time, Gallaher said.
Those needing emergency care will still be taken to the hospital or paramedics will be called, Gallaher said.
Gallaher said the arrangement will also free up corrections officers from having to leave the facility to transport the child. Two officers are required for transport.
The services are being funded from the juvenile court’s current budget. Waters said the medical exam bed was secured from a health department in another county, saving some costs.
Before a public health nurse could come to the juvenile court, the program had to receive state approval.
The first day a nurse was at the facility highlighted the benefits.
Gallaher said a girl had an epileptic seizure in the courtroom and the nurse was able to treat the child until paramedics arrived.
“Most people don’t know what to do. All our correctional officers get a certain amount of training on how to handle that, but nobody can do it like a trained professional,” Gallaher said.
The juvenile court director said he feels adding the medical care also helps students understand that the juvenile court wants to help them.
“I think sometimes these kids are scared to death when they are incarcerated, and I think when they see a nurse that it just calms them down a little bit — helps them feel more secure,” Gallaher said. “All of the nurses are very professional in attitude and personality. They are very good at what they do and ... very, very good with children.”
Any child incarcerated for 14 days is required by state law to have a physical exam.
Gallaher said he hopes that after the children are released the families will continue routine medical checkups and care.
Gallaher said many times children are found to have medical issues after they are arrested.
Waters said two or three nurses will rotate filling the position.