Providing proper health care for those in jail has helped one Peoria company lock up plenty of contracts all across the country. "It's a very stealthy business," said Dr. Norman Johnson from his office at Advanced Correctional Healthcare, referring to the fact health care for prisoners is not only overlooked by the taxpaying public but often not fully understood by counties that operate the jails.
Providing proper health care for those in jail has helped one Peoria company lock up plenty of contracts all across the country.
"It's a very stealthy business," said Dr. Norman Johnson from his office at Advanced Correctional Healthcare, referring to the fact health care for prisoners is not only overlooked by the taxpaying public but often not fully understood by counties that operate the jails.
Johnson and his wife, Brenda, own the business that now has 132 contracts in 15 states. The company employs 275 people - with 25 working out of the Peoria office - and generated more than $20 million in sales last year, up from $600,000 when the firm started in 2002, said Johnson.
A map in the company's conference room shows the bulk of those contracts are located in Illinois, Indiana and Missouri, but Advanced Correctional is advancing across the country. A swath of colored markers on the map denotes proposed contracts.
"We won't get them all, but we'll get our share," he said.
An internist who practiced in Pekin from 1981 to 1999, Johnson attributes his company's fast rise to "the product we've developed."
That product is tailored to the needs of the client, whether it's a 20-bed lockup or a jail with 1,000 cells, he said.
Johnson drew the distinction between a jail where stays are generally short and a prison where "you're going to be a long time."
Advanced Correctional specializes in jail care, he said. "An inmate in jail has three basic rights: an access to health care, to have competent care and to have the doctor's orders followed," said Johnson, also certified in addiction medicine.
"Understanding addiction is important since 84 percent of those in U.S. jails have some kind of substance abuse problem," said Johnson, adding that Advanced Correctional also runs four drug rehabilitation centers in Chicago along with another company.
"Jails didn't have organized health care available to them in 1995," he said, referring to when he first got involved with prisoner health care.
That meant jails - and the counties that run them - could be liable for charges made against them by prisoners, said Johnson.
"Inmates can file lawsuits from jail and they do frequently," he said.
"(Counties) needed experts. We developed systems to handle these things," said Johnson, who maintains a network of doctors, nurses and other health practitioners across the 15 states where the company operates.
Lorrie Leuthold, director of business development and client services, said Advanced Correctional also makes a commitment to the areas they serve.
"We try to keep things as local as possible. We want to keep the tax money there," she said.
Along with keeping things local, Johnson also likes to keep things organized. "We are driven by a strategic plan," he said.
Advanced Correctional doesn't just print fancy mission statements for display, said Johnson. "We work on our plan year-round, updating it every week," he said.
Referring to a thick, three-ring binder, Johnson cites directives and goals across the company, including duties spelled out for himself as CEO. "My job is to oil the tracks and help close deals. I'm involved with educating counties (on patient health care)," he said.
Along with a goal of eight speaking engagements for the year (he's already booked seven), Johnson, 67, plans to call all 132 clients twice during 2009 - by telephone or in person.
Thumbing through the list of clients and a sea of check marks, he cajoled himself to keep moving. "The year's half over. I need to get off my duff," he said.
It isn't just Johnson's work ethic that sets his company apart, he said. "Everybody working here is on automatic. We search for self-motivated people who take ownership in the company," said Johnson.
The strategic plans also are designed to help individuals, he said. "We ask how this company can help you, and every three months we review those goals," said Johnson.
Then there's the matter of training. "Every four months, our doctors are invited here for retraining and for discussion among themselves," he said. Frequent training programs for nurses also are planned.
Ranked 37th on Inc. magazine's list of the fastest-growing health care companies in the United States in 2007, Advanced Correctional hasn't been slowed by the economic downturn.
"As counties are driven to reduce costs, we think we can help them. Programs like our purchase program for counties to buy anything they might need for jails and offices have proved very successful," said Johnson, who believes in accountability.
"Every client has my personal telephone number if there's a question or problem, and they use it. We will not allow a profit motive to get in the way of doing the right thing," he said.
Steve Tarter can be reached at (309) 686-3260 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Advanced Correctional Healthcare
Business: Providing health care services to jails
Employees: 275, including 25 at Peoria headquarters office
Sales: More than $20 million in 2008
Clients: 132 throughout the Midwest
Owners: Dr. Norman Johnson and his wife, Brenda
Web site: www.advancedch.com