As Dr. David Gremillion of the Men's Health Network said: "There is a silent health crisis in America. On average, American men live sicker and die younger than American women." But we're not talking about it.
On Thursday, June 13, Washington, DC-based Community Education Group (CEG) aims to get folks talking about men's health with the launch of the Back to Life (BSL) Blue Ribbon Campaign. Building on National Men's Health Week, the campaign will provide thousands of Blue Ribbons throughout the District of Columbia to increase the awareness of the high rates of heart disease, cancer, stroke, HIV/AIDS and suicide faced by African American men, and especially those men returning from a correctional setting.
CEG works to reduce the spread of HIV and eliminate health disparities among District neighborhoods by emphasizing education, testing and training for community health workers. Back to Life (BSL) funded by the Office of Minority Health, addresses the gaps in available health care, social and supportive services for high-risk minority families who are living with HIV/AIDS or who are at-risk for HIV infection. The program, which primarily serves Washington DC's Ward 7 and Ward 8, encourages men to seek regular medical care/services and early screening. These predominantly low-income and medically underserved communities - like many urban communities across the nation - face high rates of HIV Infections, substance abuse, unemployment, low literacy, mental health disorders and imprisonment, to name a few. In 2012, an average 2,000 District residents returned from federal prisons and 14,000 returned from the DC Department of Corrections (DOC) facilities - 27 percent of them returned to Ward 7 and 23.1 percent returned to Ward 8.
Washington, DC, is the only U.S. jurisdiction that does not have a prison within its borders. Residents charged with a felony conviction are placed at Federal Bureau of Prison (FBOP) facilities across the nations -as far away as California, Oklahoma, New Jersey, Florida, North Carolina and Ohio. Upon returning home to the District, many residents often fall through the cracks in the safety net.
Back to Life (BSL) has developed a comprehensive and coordinated system of care that includes the DOC, Federal Bureau of Prisons, Courts Services and Offender Supervision Agency, Family Medical Counseling Services, Unity Health Care and many other community-based organizations to serve those men returning from corrections settings. Through a family-centered, integrated health and social service network approach with the goals of reducing HIV infections, increasing linkages to care for HIV positive individuals, and improving the overall health of the community, Back to Life (BSL) works to eliminate a major barrier to health care encountered by many District residents returning from prisons, Back to Life (BSL) conducts outreach services to identify these men and provides linkage for these men to needed medical and social services. Additionally, the program conducts counseling, testing and referral (CTR) services, HIV treatment adherence counseling and linkages to substance abuse treatment and other support services.
For more information on the CEG's Back to Life (BSL) Blue Ribbon Campaign contact Brandon Armani, Program Associate-Community Education Group at Brandon@communityeducationgroup.org.
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Brandon Armani is Program Associate at Community Education Group. He was instrumental in the program design and implementation of the medical services delivery system for District residents returning from correctional settings, and has provided policy advocacy on key health care issues from HIV/AIDS, homeless health care and health care to individuals returning from correction settings.