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Several health care organizations will be at the Probation Parole Office, at 307 American Road, today to offer medical resources and services to former prisoners re-entering society.

As part of Re-entry Awareness Week, representatives from the Interfaith Clinic, El Dorado Medical Center, the Union County Health Unit and ARcare will meet with former prisoners this morning to discuss their medical needs upon leaving incarceration and resources available to them in Union County.

“For re-entry, from Interfaith (Clinic), we try to educate people who are re-entering society either from prison, or maybe from a battered women’s home – anywhere where they’ve been kind of segregated from society and may not know how to take care of themselves as far as how to get insurance,” said Jill Temple, Interfaith Clinic executive director.

Temple said the Interfaith Clinic will work with former prisoners today to help them learn about how to access their medical records and transfer them between institutions, how to access insurance and doctors and pharmacists in their insurance networks and other ‘insurance literacy’ issues. The Interfaith Clinic will have a booth at the Probation Parole Office from 10 a.m. to noon.

“’When I’m re-entering society, how do I find a doctor? How do I get health care? If I’m moving somewhere else, where do my records go? How do I get my records?’ There’s lots of things that people don’t think about,” Temple said.

Tammy McCall, Union County Health Unit administrator, will also be in attendance to provide some basic medical services and information. McCall will weigh and figure former prisoners’ body mass indexes (BMI) and give blood pressure checks and carbon monoxide tests, which measure the level of carbon monoxide in one’s blood.

Additionally, McCall will offer information about the services provided by the Health Unit and give referrals to other health care providers in the area.

The El Dorado Medical Center will offer information about their addiction services. A representative will also give medical assessments and offer referrals.

A service access specialist for ARcare will offer free HIV testing today. Like the Interfaith Clinic, ARcare is a health care provider serving primarily low income Arkansans. Former prisoners will also be able to apply for insurance and prescriptions.

Temple said one of the main areas of education formerly incarcerated people need is what she calls ‘insurance literacy:’ learning about how their insurance policy works, out-of-pocket costs, finding doctors and pharmacists in their networks and maintaining their coverage.

“These other ones, that are just entering society, there’s so much going on when they walk out those prison doors, they don’t think to ask for their medical records or their medicines, so five days later they’re without psychotic medicines or insulin or heart medicine,” Temple said. “It’s a big problem.”

Oftentimes, Temple said, when a person is released from incarceration, they do not know how to access their medical records from the correctional facility, meaning maintaining any ongoing treatment can be difficult, as can be finding a new doctor.

As a SHARE Foundation agency, the Interfaith Clinic has added re-entry to its mission as part of the SHARE Foundation’s Violence Intervention Plan (VIP). Temple said the Interfaith Clinic will act as the primary care providers at Wings to Recover, a re-entry facility for men that began serving re-entry clients a few weeks ago.

“You’ve got to be healthy to be able to be successful and recover,” Temple said.

Many of the men who go through Wings to Recover’s six-month re-entry program will be from areas other than Union County, Temple said. Because of that, part of the Interfaith Clinic’s job will be to connect the re-entry men with health care providers in their home cities that they will be able to visit when they leave Wings to Recover.

“People that are re-entering from any type of institution … a lot of these people come from poverty situations and they don’t think long-term,” Temple said. “Everything that people in poverty do is immediate needs … so getting people re-entering society to think about health and health care, and actually them getting the health care, is gigantic in helping them be productive members of society.”

Temple emphasized that the Interfaith Clinic will only work with re-entry clients that consent to receiving health care through them. The Interfaith Clinic serves as essentially a primary care practice for low income residents of Union County, offering traditional services like check-ups, chronic condition maintenance, EKGs, blood testing and prescription assistance.

She said serving re-entry clients and former prisoners is important because it helps connect that population to long-term resources that will allow them to lead more fulfilling and productive lives.

“You can’t go to a job if you have high blood pressure and can’t focus or if you’re passing out from high blood sugars that are out of control. You can’t be a productive worker,” Temple said. “So you need health care, and consistently coming to a medical provider is just very important to be productive.”

She said one of the biggest challenges facing former prisoners is the stigma associated with having a criminal conviction. However, thanks to the VIP, those people are getting a second chance.

“There can be a stigma attached to anybody re-entering society from an institution, whether it be a prison or a facility and the Violence Intervention program is really pushing to remove the stigma and give people a chance,” Temple said. “To give people a chance, whether you’re an employer or a health care provider, to just provide your services and give people a chance.”

To learn more about the Interfaith Clinic, call 870-864-8010 or visit facebook.com/interfaithclinic. Their office is located at 403 W. Oak on the second floor.

Caitlan Butler can be reached at 870-862-6611 or cbutler@eldoradonews.com.

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