Community Voices

Returning Citizens Care Providers

In June 2020, DC Health staff planned and facilitated two online community engagement sessions for around 10 providers who serve returning citizens. Using the whole-person health framework, facilitators asked providers what was happening in the lives of returning citizens, including identifying the top concerns, service gaps, and strengths of the community.

Concerns

  • Affordable housing is a huge issue. There is not enough supply to meet the demand. Staying with family members or friends is an option for some but not all.
  • The experience of being incarcerated is traumatizing, and there are not enough mental health services in the region, especially for people in the Black, Latinx, and LGBTQ+ communities.
  • There is still stigma associated with seeking mental health services, especially in Black and Latino/a/x communities. However, participants noted that more people are seeking mental health services during the COVID-19 pandemic, so that may help to normalize seeking support.
  • Many have very few options for employment.
  • They find it hard to trust people when they are released. It takes awhile to build trust for them, even with family members.

Health

  • Returning citizens may reveal their HIV status to a community-based organization before they reveal it to their families.
  • Returning citizens come home with only 30 days’ worth of medications.
  • Gaining access to benefits after release is challenging.
  • It is important that returning citizens can engage with providers who are culturally competent.

Additional Challenges

  • People feel as if there are only intake and referral services. There need to be more organizations that actually provide services, instead of referring people to other facilities.
  • There need to be additional older adult services for returning citizens.
  • People feel as if they are a case study. They want to be treated as an individual, not a number.
  • There is a need for family reunification services.
  • Transportation is a major issue in Prince George’s County, Maryland, affecting job searches and compliance with appointments.

Strengths

  • Community-based programs and government agencies are partnering to build a reentry network that provides high-quality support services to returning citizens.
  • Despite the trauma that comes with being incarcerated, returning citizens are resilient and resourceful.
  • Community-based organizations are building partnerships with employers to hire returning citizens. Community-based organizations also investigate why their client wasn’t hired so that they can use the feedback to better improve their training services.
  • The Mayor’s Office on Returning Citizens Affairs is working to increase mental health services.

Solutions


What can DC Health do to support returning citizens?

  • Create more wraparound services to manage the needs of returning citizens, with better collaboration between community-based organizations and government agencies.
  • Develop more culturally competent providers to provide mental health services.
  • Get providers to look at the whole family unit when considering services. It is important to keep the family bond strong while the person is incarcerated and after release.
  • Begin services for returning citizens before they are released. Services should include a stipend and basic hygiene products.
  • Increase understanding that being incarcerated is traumatic.
  • Increase collaboration with the probation officer. They have the best access to the client but are not too concerned with health and social services.
  • Consider the intersection of gender, race, religion, and sexuality of returning citizens and their unique needs.
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