HealthLink helps reduce recidivism rates

MARYLAND – New efforts are underway to address social concerns that former inmates may face when returning to society, in order to reduce recidivism rates in Maryland.

“If you think about the hierarchy of needs, if you want someone to be a productive member of society to get a job, or to go into a training program, you have to really start with their basic needs,” says Traci Kodeck, the CEO of Health Care Access Maryland (HCAM).

Traci Kodeck, the CEO of Healthcare Access Maryland says adequate access to healthcare is one of their basic needs, while Ellen Rappaport with YesCare agrees that this is a needed resource to lower rates of recidivism among former inmates in Maryland. “What the patient knew was we took care of them when they came back to prison and so the idea was I’m going to go back because I know that’s where I’m going to get my care. I’m going to get my meals, my medicine, I’m going to get my follow-up care that I need, basic needs are going to be taken care of,” says Ellen Rappaport, the Director of Reentry for YesCare.

The Returning Citizens Health Link provides care across the board. “Our team members go into the facility and work with individuals 30-60-90 days prior to release. We help them apply for medical assistance and then we identify areas where they might need appointments, whether it is primary care, specialty care, or other medical services, mental health substance abuse and we schedule those appointments so that they walk out the facility with a medical appointment,” says Kodeck.

Officials say there’s a need for these services to keep former inmates from making the same mistakes and landing back behind bars. “When that individual has supportive services in place, prior to release they’re less likely to re-offend or violate probation and more likely to get into supportive services, workforce development initiatives, training programs, reengage with family,” says Kodeck. “Most people who are in prison leave, they don’t stay in prison all their lives and so we need to work together to fight and support the returning citizens who have done their time,” says Rappaport.

Rappaport says in each prison, they use a team approach. “Reentry Discharge Planners ensure that there is a linkage in the community for those returning citizens, so you have to have access first which is the health insurance and then there is that connection to the community resource. There’s also social work from the department of public safety as well as reentry teams that look at the entire person, so it could be housing, transportation, it could be any social determinants of health needs, and they all work together to have a comprehensive care plan,” Rappaport adds.

HCAM is looking to hire a Benefits Specialist to go into Eastern Correctional Institution and help out with this resource. For more information about HealthLink, click here.

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