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The STD Screening and Education Project at the Douglas County Jail: Do juSTIce, provides health professions students in Omaha a truly unique opportunity to take the knowledge they’re learning in the classroom and implement it in the community in a valuable and meaningful way. With Omaha currently working through what the county health department has deemed an “STD epidemic,” these students are providing an important public health service in educating, screening, and treating a traditionally high-risk population for sexually transmitted diseases.
This project, the only one in the country that places students in a corrections facility to provide a service like this, serves as an exemplary illustration of the power of community engagement and public health.
In 2008, the Douglas County Department of Corrections reached out to UNMC to see what might be done about an escalating epidemic of sexually transmitted diseases in the community. After much research, thought, and conversation, a student-run program to address this issue began to take shape.
Since its inception, this opt-in program has provided education to more than 2000 individuals, screening to more than 1000, and has identified and treated infection in over 50. This rate of infection hovering around five percent is ten times higher than that seen in the general population of Omaha and evidences the value of the work being done by these students – but there is still more to be done.
In July 2011, jail administrators commissioned a project to be done that would every single in-mate at in-take to get a better grasp of what the true prevalence of STDs may actually be in the jail. Twenty-four hours a day, for an entire week, students made themselves available to provide testing to every individual who walked into the jail. At the end of those seven days, 307 individuals had been tested, with Chlamydia infections being identified in 30 of them and Gonorrhea infections being identified in four. These numbers speak to a vast underutilization of the services that the students are providing through the opt-in program and serve as a great opportunity for program growth and development.