Improving access to health and social supports for offenders on release

Improving access to health and social supports for offenders on release

People leaving prison in Canterbury will benefit from improved support to navigate and access health and social supports thanks to collaboration between Health, Corrections and the social service sector.

A multi-agency group, the Coordinated Access on Release Design Group, was formed in 2016 with the aim of addressing the barriers that prevent offenders released from prison from accessing appropriate health services, supports and resources in the community.

Jane Cartwright, an independent advisor who chairs the group on behalf of Canterbury Clinical Network, emphasised how important it was to work together to achieve results.

“After an initial workshop we realised that we needed continued collaboration to make progress for these members of our community who often don’t know what services are available to them or how to navigate them, or who experience barriers that prevent them from having their health needs met.”

The group has worked on several initiatives, two of which include using Partnership Community Workers (PCW’s) as key connectors between sectors.

The first initiative sees PCW’s working with the Correction’s Guided Release Pilot to support individuals who have high and/or complex health needs on release and require additional support to ensure their health needs are met and any barriers they experience accessing health services are addressed.

The second initiative sees the PCW’s working from the Justice Precinct with police to identify court attendees and their family/ whānau who have complex health issues and connect them and their family/whānau with a general practice team or community health provider.

The group has also supported work around simplifying the registration process for RealME registration through MSD.

Kathy O’Neill, Canterbury DHB, said there is early indication that these initiatives are working. “We have seen an increase in the number of offenders on release accessing services through their general practice team. What’s even more positive is that many of these people continue to engage on a regular basis.”

Nathan Tipuna, Senior Case Manager, Canterbury Prisons who is part of the group developing these initiatives, said: “Release from prison can be an anxious and stressful time for anyone and especially for those who have had their health needs effectively managed or supported in prison and who are now expected to do this for themselves in the community.

“We hope to empower these people, and their whānau, to better manage their personal wellbeing and to live healthier, independent lives in their community.”

Jane added: “The group is also working hard to take a more holistic view – we’re not just looking at the needs of this population, but also their whānau and social environment. Support to improve health literacy and advocacy should be available to the entire family/ whānau, with the aim that they continue to engage with health and social agencies for support.”

The group will release more detailed information on these initiatives and share outcomes in the next few months.

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