Transitional health care team connects released persons with services
Among the many challenges for soon-to-be released persons from Indiana Department of Correction facilities are having a place to call home and securing employment. Also of equal, and sometimes greater, importance is establishing health care connections for those who have ongoing health care concerns.
Recognizing this need, Dr. Kristen Dauss, the chief medical officer for the IDOC, established a transitional health care team in September of 2019. Now, just over a year later, the team continues to address the need for enhanced release planning for incarcerated persons returning home by utilizing a holistic approach to the continuum of care, keeping in mind each person’s strengths and barriers while addressing social determinants of health.
The team ensures all releasing persons have active health care coverage and immediate access to services upon returning to their community. Additionally, team members provide individualized release planning for IDOC’s most vulnerable persons, including those with physical or behavioral health concerns.
“This department was created with a very specific mission in mind, to create holistic and person-centered transitional health care planning for people returning home,” said Christine Daniel, executive director of the IDOC transitional health care team. “Busting down barriers, advocating for change and delivering results for our most vulnerable continues to be our daily work.
“Unbelievably, transitional health care has expanded our reach and pushed our boundaries during the pandemic, taking on increased duties and developing new protocols for safe, healthy releases,” she said.
While much attention is focused on the health care needs of persons being released, there’s a small population at the Indiana Women’s Prison who especially need transitional health care services: women sentenced to prison while pregnant.
For the women who meet strict guidelines related to their criminal offense and the length of their sentence, they are able to care for their newborn baby while completing their sentence. This takes place in a special area on the grounds of the women’s prison formerly known as the Wee Ones Nursery. Now known as the Leath Maternal-Child Health Unit, in honor and memory of Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department Officer Breann Leath, who was killed in the line of duty April 9, 2020, and also served as a former correctional officer at the women’s prison.
Since November of 2019, the LMCHU, now commonly referred to as the Leath MCHU, has operated under the direction and supervision of transitional health care staff. The change placed more emphasis on empowering and educating the women and has resulted in an increase in the number of mother and infant participants at the Leath Unit. The benefits of expanded maternal health initiatives has also reached well beyond the Leath MCHU to include the entire female population of the women’s prison and other IDOC facilities where women are serving their sentences.
“Empowering women to reach their full potential while supporting them in their motherhood journey has been inspiring to see,” Dauss said. “I am proud of the transitional health care team and the meaningful work they have done to elevate maternal and child health not only within the medical division, but within the agency. Life-changing work is being done here.”
In the continuing effort to meet the needs of men, women and children who are returning to their local communities, transitional health care team members have, since March, conducted monthly virtual “meet and greet” events with state and local government service providers as well as private organizations who all have a vested interest in connecting released persons with needed services.
“I am excited the transitional health care team is bridging gaps in communication with fellow agencies to ensure we are providing the highest level of care to our releasing citizens,” said Maranda Sparks, IDOC transitional health care manager. “It has been an intense first year for the team, and I am proud of the work our staff has done to protect the community and give our releasing citizens the greatest opportunity for success.”