Blog: National Partnership for Action
Project HIRE's Alignment with NPA Goal
Posted on 4/25/2012 by Jessica Broome
In the spirit of the National Partnership for Action's stated goal of improved access to health care, Project HIRE works to break down barriers to medical care for formerly incarcerated individuals with HIV and other chronic health conditions. These individuals often face a myriad of challenges to obtaining appropriate health care. They may be hesitant to seek health care if they lack health insurance or cannot access transportation to a health care provider. Furthermore, many competing priorities, such as housing and other basic needs, often lead to health care being placed on a back burner.
To expand access for this notoriously underserved population, Project HIRE engages participants at every stage of their transition from incarceration to community. While still incarcerated, they attend education sessions, which emphasize the importance of HIV testing and ongoing health care. They are introduced to the services available to them through the Osborne Association generally and Project HIRE, specifically. Incarcerated HIRE participants also receive transitional planning services, with the aim of having housing and other needed services, such as substance abuse or mental health treatment in place on the day of release. Discharge plans also help participants to organize and keep track of the many appointments they need to attend to access services soon after their release.
A crucial time for maintaining formerly incarcerated individuals' involvement and commitment to accessing health care is the day of release. Project HIRE works actively to make this transition as smooth as possible, relying heavily on a Peer Navigator. The Peer Navigator, who was himself formerly incarcerated, plays a critical role in smoothing the road to health care access and healthy living for project participants. Upon their release, participants are picked up at Queensboro Correctional Facility in an Osborne vehicle and driven by the Peer Navigator directly to the Osborne office. This travel time affords the opportunity for the Peer Navigator to offer encouragement, answer questions, and remind participants of Project HIRE's services. In Osborne's Bronx office, participants encounter a welcoming "one-stop shop," where they can receive lunch, a "dignity kit" of personal hygiene items, and clothing, as well as meeting with intake staff to enroll in Osborne's substance abuse day treatment program and apply for entitlements. Finally, participants are transported to their pre-arranged housing and accompanied by the Peer Navigator as they settle in. With so many basic needs taken care of, participants are able to make health care a priority.
Project HIRE's partnership with Montefiore Hospital's Transitions Clinic is another method of expanding access to health care for project participants. The Transitions Clinic offers services exclusively to recently released individuals, and participants' discomfort is largely assuaged by clinic staff's acceptance and understanding of their unique situation. Because it is offered on Saturday mornings, the clinic tends to be less crowded than a typical health clinic, thus reducing the wait time for patients.
The Peer Navigator continues to play an important role for HIRE participants who visit the Transitions Clinic. He is at the minimum a familiar face for participants in their visits to the clinic. Beyond this, his involvement includes reminding participants of their appointments, transporting participants to the clinic or providing them with a ride, facilitating the completion of paperwork in advance of appointments, interpreting between medical staff and monolingual participants, ensuring that prescriptions are filled in a timely manner, and liaising between participants and medical staff between appointments. In short, Project HIRE's Peer Navigator breaks down many potential barriers to health care, and makes accessing health services as easy as possible for project participants.
In addition to medical services, project HIRE participants meet regularly with project staff for counseling sessions. These sessions provide a means for staff to encourage adherence to HIV treatment plans, ensure that participants' basic needs are being met, and intervene immediately if a participant's situation seems on the verge of derailing them from a focus on maintaining good health.
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The NPA works to achieve health equity -- the highest level of health for all people. This blog is a venue for professionals from all fields and sectors to share their thoughts on pressing issues, news and events pertaining to health equity. Follow and participate in this candid discussion.
About the Author
Jessica Broome is a social researcher with over a decade of experience conducting qualitative and quantitative research among diverse audiences. Her areas of expertise include program evaluations, mixed mode research, and research for communications. Dr. Broome holds a PhD in Survey Methodology from the University of Michigan and an MS in Applied Social Research from Hunter College.
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