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During National Reentry Week, April 24-30, 2016, our nation will focus on the future of individuals who are returning to communities after serving time in federal and state prisons and local jails. This focus will extend across many sectors – employment, education, housing, criminal justice, and transportation – all of which impact health. And all Americans, including those who have been formerly incarcerated and have paid their debt to society, should have the opportunity to reach their full potential.
President Obama noted during a speech last July on criminal justice reform at the NAACP Annual Convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, that “virtually all of the people incarcerated in our prisons will eventually, someday, be released.” He also stated, “while the people in our prisons have made some mistakes, and sometimes big mistakes, they are also Americans. And we have to make sure that as they do their time, and pay back their debt to society, that we are increasing the possibility that they can turn their lives around.”
Throughout National Reentry Week, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and our federal partners are highlighting efforts and alliances underway that engage sectors other than criminal justice to support the successful reentry of people who have had contact with the criminal justice system. The Justice Department is coordinating reentry events across the country, such as job fairs, mentorship, and events for children of incarcerated parents. Breaking down barriers to successful reentry requires collaboration between education, job placement, housing, transportation, behavioral health, public health, health care, and justice system organizations – all working together to improve the health, well-being, and safety of all individuals.
To achieve this goal, the HHS Office of Minority Health supports successful reentry through community-based efforts to increase access to health services through the HIV/AIDS Health Improvement for the Re-Entry Population and the recently announced Re-Entry Community Linkages funding opportunity. The HHS Office of Minority Health has also strengthened its partnership with DOJ to bridge the opportunity gaps for the justice-involved population – in which racial and ethnic minorities are disproportionately represented – and address the factors that put individuals at risk of becoming involved with the juvenile justice and criminal justice systems.
Both HHS and DOJ understand that efforts to address social determinants of health extend beyond ensuring the formerly incarcerated have a successful reentry back to their communities; these efforts must also focus on expanding opportunities for those at risk for entering the justice system. The HHS Office of Minority Health and the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services at DOJ joined forces to launch the Minority Youth Violence Prevention (MYVP) program in 2014, bringing public health and law enforcement together to address youth violence through a public health framework.
And we are already seeing the impact of this program – nearly 3,000 youth have been provided services through this effort. The District Attorney’s Office in Chatham County, Georgia, one of the nine MYVP grantees, manages the Youth Intercept Program. This program provides a safe haven for students to discuss the rise of gangs in Savannah, and through partnership with local schools it helps young people develop positive attitudes and focus on their futures. Since the program’s inception, truancy rates among Youth Intercept Program students have declined nearly 50%.
HHS and DOJ also continue to actively engage in advancing the goals of the White House My Brother’s Keeper (MBK) initiative that works to ensure that all young people can reach their full potential, including boys and young men of color and the White House Council on Women and Girls. DOJ and its Office of Justice Programs play a central role in MBK by focusing on preventing and reducing violence, improving outcomes for youth involved in the juvenile justice system, and ensuring those who are victimized have access to services.
And this week, HHS issued new guidance extending Medicaid coverage to residents of certain community halfway houses – up to about 100,000 people. The guidance also clarifies a long-standing Medicaid policy that probationers, parolees, and those in home confinement are not considered inmates of public institutions and so should not be automatically denied Medicaid coverage.
Everyone, including those who have had contact with the criminal and juvenile justice systems, deserve the chance to achieve good health. Join us during National Reentry Week to learn more about federal resources and information on reentry programs.
Additional Reentry-Related Resources:
J. Nadine Gracia, MD, MSCE is the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Minority Health and Director of the Office of Minority Health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Karol V. Mason, JD is the Assistant Attorney General of the Office of Justice Programs at the U.S. Department of Justice
In just a matter of weeks, proud parents, family, and friends in every corner of the nation will gather to watch their high school seniors graduate. Predictable warm weather and speeches that may run a bit too long will be of little note as an estimated3.3 million young women and men earn their diplomas and embark upon their future pursuits.
For most, it is a new beginning, full of opportunity and hope. For far too many others, including youth who don’t graduate from high school, it’s a path that is lined with barriers to opportunity which limit their educational attainment, economic opportunity, and future success.
And for children from minority and disadvantaged communities who do not graduate high school, the challenges of reaching their full potential are even steeper. They are less likely to be employed, less likely to rise above the bottom fifth in income distribution, and more likely to become involved in the criminal justice system.
These factors also influence their overall health. As Broderick Johnson, Cabinet Secretary at the White House and Chair of the My Brother’s Keeper Task Force, said during the National Minority Health Month 2016 HHS Health Equity Forum on April 7: “You can’t just talk about filling opportunity gaps, whether it is in education or in jobs, without also talking about the importance of the health and well-being, especially for our most vulnerable young people. Opportunities impact health. Health impacts opportunity.”
Improving the well-being and expected life outcomes for all young people, including boys and young men of color, is the goal of President Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper Initiative. The My Brother’s Keeper Task Force recently issued its two year progress report: Two Years of Expanding Opportunity and Creating Pathways to Success. And at HHS, we understand if we are going to meet this challenge, our work must begin early in the lives of youth.
By age three, children from low-income households have heard about 30 million fewer words than their peers from higher income households. Long before kindergarten starts, a disparity in language skills exists that can affect performance at school and other outcomes later in life. In 2015, HHS and the U.S. Department of Education invited government officials, researchers, advocates and community leaders for a convening at the White House on Bridging the Word Gap. Announcements at the meeting included a $2 million investment for a National Academies of Science study on supporting young dual and English language learners and the Bridging the Word Gap Challenge, an initiative of the Health Resources and Services Administration. The challenge will lead to the creation of tools to help parents and caregivers talk and engage more with young children. . HHS also funded the Bridging the Word Gap Research Network at the University of Kansas to develop and test interventions to improve early language exposure, vocabulary acquisition and language development for children from disadvantaged communities.
Promoting the social-emotional and behavioral development of children is essential to their future health and well-being. The National Center of Excellence for Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation was launched in October 2015 by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Health Resources and Services Administration, and Administration for Children and Families. The Center of Excellence will develop tools, training, and technical assistance to help states and Tribal nations build strong behavioral health system systems for children. It will also ensure that more child care centers, preschools, and home visiting programs have access to consultants who can help them meet the needs of young children, especially those who struggle with developmental and behavioral challenges. The Center of Excellence, managed by the Education Development Center, Inc. in Waltham, Massachusetts and awarded $6 million over four years, is also designed to advance research, training, and policies to improve outcomes for young children.
Even in preschool, expulsion and suspension of students occur at high rates. And young students are who are expelled or suspended are as much as 10 times more likely to drop out of school and experience academic failure and grade retention. These students are also more likely to be young boys of color. To curb and severely limit expulsion and suspension in early learning settings, in December 2014, HHS and the U.S. Department of Education issued the first federal policy statement on the matter. And today, the Administration for Children and Families has released a resource guide on State and Local Action to Prevent Expulsion and Suspension in Early Learning Settings, to provide states and localities with innovative approaches to address expulsions and suspensions in early childhood settings.
By curbing expulsions and suspensions, working to erase the word gap and providing more support for America’s children, we are ensuring that more youth are able to achieve their full potential, which is something of which we all can be proud.
Through these efforts and many others that are advancing the goals of My Brother’s Keeper, new collaborations are underway across sectors, such as health and human services, education, justice, labor, and housing, and they are that are forging new pathways to accelerate health equity for all young people, including boys and young men of color. Find out more about what My Brother’s Keeper is doing to expand opportunity for young people here.
J. Nadine Gracia, MD, MSCE, is the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Minority Health and the Director of the Office of Minority Health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Dr. Gracia serves as the HHS designee on the My Brother’s Keeper Task Force.
Ed. note: This originally published on the Centers for Medicare & Medical Services (CMS) website.
Millions of Americans are gaining health coverage every year. Between 2013 and 2014, African Americans and Latinos saw the largest declines in uninsured rates. During the 2016 open enrollment period, over 2.2 million individuals of color selected plans through the Marketplace. Getting coverage is a big accomplishment, but it is just the first step. Regardless of your race or ethnicity, taking advantage of your coverage so you and your family stay healthy is an equally important step.
Read more on the CMS site.
Cara James is the Director of the Office of Minority Health at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).
Ed. note: This was originally published on the acf.hhs.gov blog.
Today, in conjunction with the release of the My Brother’s Keeper (MBK) Second Year Report, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released a report that highlights states and local communities that are taking important steps to address expulsion and suspension in early learning settings. The actions profiled in the report, range from passing new legislation to restrict expulsions and suspensions in preschool programs and revising regulations to improve the social-emotional supports children in child care programs receive, to expanding coaching programs - such as early childhood mental health consultation- that prevent expulsion and build teacher capacity in supporting children's development.
This resource follows the recommendation to eliminate expulsion and suspension in early learning settings, initially outlined in the MBK Task Force Report to the President; and the subsequent release of the first joint policy statement on expulsion and suspension from HHS and the Department of Education (ED), which issued recommendations to ultimately eliminate expulsion and suspension from early learning settings.
To continue the forward progress to eliminate expulsions and suspensions in early learning settings, a group of more than 30 national organizations, led by the National Association for the Education of Young Children, published a joint statement in support of those recommendations today.
When people think of expulsions and suspensions, they tend to think of older children- teenagers maybe. They don’t usually think of our youngest learners- toddlers and preschoolers in early learning settings. However, some estimates indicate that young children in early childhood programs are expelled at rates much higher than older children. Expulsion and suspension data also consistently indicate racial and gender disparities in these detrimental practices, with boys and boys of color, in particular, being expelled and suspended at higher rates than their peers.
We all lose when young children are expelled. In the early years of life, children’s brains are developing rapidly and are influenced by both positive and negative experiences. Besides experiencing the stress and interruption of being removed from their early learning setting, research indicates that children who are expelled or suspended are more likely to drop out of high school, experience academic failure, hold negative attitudes about school, and face incarceration than those who do not. Early expulsion and suspension predict later expulsions and suspensions, so when we set our children’s trajectories in a negative direction from the beginning, consequences later in life follow.
Parents are negatively impacted too. With their work schedules being interrupted, parents are left stressed out scrambling to find alternative care when their child has been asked to leave. The result is often children bouncing from one program to another, and working families struggling to find and keep care.
And let’s not forget teachers and caregivers. Trying to support the learning and social-emotional development of all young children, including those who may demonstrate challenging behaviors, without access to classroom supports like early childhood mental health consultation, is frustrating. The lack of support to manage challenging behaviors, many of which are developmentally appropriate, can cause disruption and get in the way of learning. Caregivers in these situations are often left feeling like removing children is the only way forward.
A key recommendation from the HHS and ED joint policy statement on expulsion and suspension called for investing in a skilled workforce and making specialized supports available to all caregivers so that teachers have hands-on assistance in supporting all children and engage in self-reflective practice to prevent potential biases in practice.
The report being released today features great progress in communities across the country. States like Arkansas, Colorado and Ohio have invested in expanding early childhood mental health consultation to support teachers and providers. Connecticut, the only state to have a universal early childhood mental health consultation system, passed a state law that prohibits most out-of-school suspensions and expulsions of young children.
Our goal is to share these and other examples to encourage more states and communities to take action to correct this troublesome issue. We hope this report sparks innovative ideas and shared learning for addressing and ultimately eliminating suspensions and expulsions of our youngest learners, in your state and community.
For Immediate Release: See the White House Fact Sheet here.
Two years have passed since the President signed a Presidential Memorandum in 2014 establishing the My Brother’s Keeper (MBK) Task Force (the Task Force), a coordinated Federal effort to address persistent opportunity gaps faced by boys and young men of color and ensure that all young people can reach their full potential. See the report My Brother’s Keeper – Two Years of Expanding Opportunity & Creating Pathways for Success.
Linda K. Smith is the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Early Childhood Development
Yesterday the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine released Eliminating the Public Health Problem of Hepatitis B and C in the United States: Phase One Report, which affirms that it would be possible to eliminate hepatitis in the U.S. with the right resources, commitment, and strategy. Importantly, the report also concluded that in the short term, disease control — a reduction in the incidence and prevalence of hepatitis B and C and their consequences — is feasible.
Commissioned by the CDC’s Division of Viral Hepatitis and the HHS Office of Minority Health, the report examines scientific and policy issues related to the prevention, detection, control, and management of HBV and HCV and also discusses the barriers that must be overcome to eliminate hepatitis B and hepatitis C in the United States.
This report will inform and galvanize work currently underway across the federal government to both implement the national Viral Hepatitis Action Plan and develop an update to it that will guide our nation’s response to viral hepatitis through 2020. (See the related blog post: Federal Workgroup Looks to Future of Viral Hepatitis Action Plan.)
The Academies will now continue their work, developing a phase two report that will outline a strategy and propose targets for eliminating hepatitis B and C in the United States. This report is expected early next year.
Corinna Dan, R.N., M.P.H. is the Viral Hepatitis Policy Advisor at the Office of HIV/AIDS and Infectious Disease Policy, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services