By Christine McBride and David Scholnick
When people walk out of Camden County Correctional Facility and step into freedom, they carry their health needs with them. This spring, the jail’s clinic took a big step of its own when it began sending health data to the Camden Coalition Health Information Exchange (HIE). Now healthcare and social service providers in Camden who help returning citizens will have access to diagnoses, lab results, and other clinical summaries relevant to patient care. The Camden Coalition will also have a more complete picture of the community’s health needs and trends.
“We now have a key piece of the puzzle when we look at health and social needs, both at the individual and community level,” said Clinical Manager Michelle Adyniec, a registered nurse. “We use the data in the HIE to identify people we can help, so finally having access to medical information from the jail really makes a difference. It will help providers deliver better, more efficient care so their patients can lead healthier lives.”
Separately, Camden’s jail has launched the Co-Occurring Reentry Program that connects people behind bars to reentry specialists who can address both mental illness and substance use disorder in the context of the journey back into society. The intervention begins while the participants are still in jail and stays with them for up to a year after they depart. The reentry specialists work with nonprofits like the Camden Coalition to find the right services and supports, such as housing and healthcare, that will help returning citizens rebuild their lives. CFG Health Network, which operates the jail’s clinic, has had access to the HIE since 2012, but the information only went one direction. Now that the clinic sends data to the HIE, healthcare and social service providers have access to information critical to that mission.
The Co-Occurring Reentry Program is part of a shift in the field of corrections from punishment to rehabilitation. Officials at the jail and its clinic want to start the reentry process before inmates are released and out on their own.
“You can think of a relay race where the baton is passed, and people run a leg to provide that service,” Camden Department of Corrections Director David Owens told WHYY. The information the clinic sends to the HIE can empower health systems and social service providers on the outside to make a difference and change people’s lives.
The Camden Coalition’s Camden RESET pilot focusing on patients with high hospital use and high incarceration rates often serves individuals returning from jail who are living with substance use disorders. We connect participants in the program with medication-assisted treatment and work with partners in Camden to address their health and social needs. The pilot program grew from Camden ARISE, an integrated data project to test the hypothesis that people who frequently used the hospital system were also frequently in contact with the criminal justice system. Our research found that two-thirds of those arrested in Camden had been to emergency departments at least once during the study’s timeframe, 2010 to 2014, and more than half had made five or more visits.
People returning from prison are at elevated risk of death, particularly from overdoses. The significant overlap between individuals in Camden who face arrest and those who frequently visit hospitals underscores the dire need for interventions supporting reentry and the sharing of data across systems. The alliance of community stakeholders collaborating with the Camden County jail and its clinical team works to help formerly incarcerated people in Camden overcome these challenges and rebuild their lives.
To learn more about the Camden Coalition Health Information Exchange, visit https://camdenhealth.org/health-information-exchange/ or contact us at [email protected].