Health Services Administrator Lori Saunders recently became the first staff member at the Casper Reentry Center in Casper, Wyoming to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, the first step toward vaccinating all consenting CRC staff members and residents against the virus.
Ms. Saunders, a registered nurse, decided she would get the shot after her son, also a nurse, convinced her to. She received the first of two doses of the Moderna vaccine on December 29 and received the second in several weeks.
The CRC is a secure, long-term residential reentry program operated by GEO Reentry Services on behalf of the Wyoming Department of Corrections and the Bureau of Prisons and provides case management, work release and transitional services to offenders with substance use disorders. The center’s Therapeutic Community treatment program is an intensive 12-month therapeutic program that focuses on counseling, substance abuse treatment, peer-led seminars, daily small group sessions, daily house meetings and weekly family therapy.
The facility is located in Wyoming’s Natrona County, which recently began receiving shipments of the new Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines. Vaccines are currently being allocated according to the Wyoming Department of Health’s Phase 1A Vaccination Priority guidelines, which designates healthcare workers and correctional officers as one of the first eligible groups.
Ms. Saunders, who runs the CRC Therapeutic Community program’s medical department, described the vaccination process as a straightforward trip to the local health department office, where she received information about the vaccine, completed some paperwork and then waited for her turn. After a brief observation period to make sure she did not have any adverse reactions, she was on her way.
Prior to the vaccine, the CRC had been conducting routine weekly COVID-19 testing since October, with the center’s medical team administering screenings twice a week. After receiving the vaccine, Ms. Saunders recalled how much COVID-19 has affected her department’s operations over the past year.
“Many processes have changed, more steps have been added to procedures to accommodate for our isolated or quarantined residents, and at one point, my entire staff was out of work at the same time, leaving just me,” said Saunders.
Saunders said she would recommend the vaccine to others and hopes that it will stop the virus from spreading, build up immunity and keep it from coming back. Going forward, 16 CRC staff members and RNs are scheduled to receive the vaccine during the first phase, with another 28 staff to receive the vaccine in upcoming phases.