Mar 18, 2009

"A Healthy Parolee is a Compliant Parolee"

This post comes to us from Christopher Watler, Project Director, Harlem Community Justice Center.

This catchy quote from Angela Wilson, Director of Field Operations overseeing the New York City Department of Health’s Transitional Health Care Coordination, summed up nicely the theme of a meeting I attended today. The NYS Division of Parole’s Region 1 Reentry Services Unit brought together treatment and health service providers and government partners to share information on available services.

Robert Mitchell, Regional Coordinator for Parole Region 1, led the meeting and highlighted Parole’s commitment to fostering greater collaboration. Vanda Seward, Executive Director of ComAlert at the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office, discussed the importance of collaboration in addressing the needs of the reentry population.

With an increasingly older reentrant population, local collaboration is a critical factor in addressing the health needs of parolees. It is fair to say that the availability of health services for persons returning from prison and jail has improved over the years. However, the group highlighted some ongoing challenges, chief among them services for the mentally ill and dually-diagnosed reentrant population. Housing was also highlighted, especially for hard-to-place populations -- i.e. homeless, mentally ill, and sex offenders. Securing a good paying job remains very difficult for many reentrants, as is access to vocational services for the disabled. Angie Jimenez, Director of Downstate Operations at Parole, highlighted the work of the Upper Manhattan Reentry Task Force on the employment issue.

Claude Legree of the Brooklyn VESID office discussed the services available to support reentry for persons with a disability. VESID can play an important role in developing vocational skills and connections to work and education for disabled reentrants. However, Vanda Seward suggested that reentrants must first get their housing and treatment needs stabilized before accessing VESID. The VESID process takes time and requires that a person is stable.

Other attendees included: Help/PSI, Inc, Basic Inc, Osborne Association, Bronx Center for Rehabilitation & Health Care, Cabrini Eldercare Consortium.

To learn more about health and reentry see the following resources:

The Health Status of Soon to Be Released Inmates (NIJ, 2002)

Health and Prisoner Reentry: How Physical, Mental, and Substance Abuse Conditions Shape the Process of Reintegration (Urban Institute, 2008)