Fighting recidivism by helping our patients achieve optimal health

Fighting recidivism by helping our patients achieve optimal health by Woodrow A. Myers, Jr., M.D., CEO of Corizon Health

Reentry and recidivism are important topics in corrections, and have been for some time. Corizon Health is an integral part of a very large industry, and we have been working for years to fight recidivism by developing discharge planning, reentry and diversion programs, and other approaches to help our patients achieve optimal health, set their lives on track and discontinue their ‘revolving door’ approach to the facilities in which our care is provided. Because state governments nationwide spend anywhere between $3,000 and $12,000 per year to provide healthcare to each inmate, Corizon Health is committed to reducing the costs of recidivism and helping our clients decrease the amount of unnecessary, non-value added costs that are impacting their county and state budgets. Along with concern for each individual, this approach also speaks to reentry being a matter of public policy. As our patients avoid re-offending, the funds currently being spent on incarceration can be spent on other programs and initiatives within their communities.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, more than 50 percent of ex-prisoners will be back behind bars within three years, a percentage that rises to 66 percent if they are drug offenders. So, developing alternatives to incarceration is a way of working against that statistic to help our patients, one at a time, overcome their challenges and not come back into the system. Unlike most companies, it is not our goal to have ‘repeat customers.’ We want long-term and repeat county and state clients, and we want to be so effective in treating our patients that they become healthier, more mentally stable, and are able to function outside of incarceration—so that they do not become our patients again in the future.

Corizon Health serves over 340,000 inmates across the country, and approximately 40-60% of our patients have mental health issues, while approximately 65% of our patients meet the criteria for substance abuse addiction. Furthermore, mental health and substance abuse conditions can and often co-exist in many patients. About 2,000 of our 12,000 employees nationwide are focused specifically on behavioral health and work on a regular basis to manage the needs of our patient populations. It is in the best interest of our patients, as well as our clients, for us to provide appropriate care, therapy and medications while the patients are with us – and, equally as important is preparing them to go back into the community to assure that when they are released they can manage their conditions outside of confinement. At Corizon Health, our programs begin on day one of incarceration. Meaning, on day one, we start treating the patient in a manner that will help prepare them for reentry into the community. It is our goal to work with our patients individually, and to provide them with the tools they need to be successful. This includes managing any necessary mental health issues and overcoming substance abuse addiction so that they can become contributing members of society.

Along with individualized treatment plans, one of the innovative things that Corizon Health offers are customized reentry websites that assist inmates in transitioning back into their communities. These portals offer information gathered from a variety of community resources, like food banks, employment services and housing assistance, provided on one website for ease of access by inmates and their families. When utilized to help re-establish an inmate, they can be very effective in reducing recidivism, improving quality of life, and enhancing public safety.

We have many innovative health programs that also contribute to preparing our patients for life after incarceration. For example, the Wyoming Honor Farm and the South Idaho Correctional Institution have both successfully implemented the “Take Charge” program that helps inmates exercise, lose weight, lower blood pressure, control diabetes and other chronic conditions, learn healthy eating habits, and create healthier lifestyles they can continue after release. We support our client partners in their efforts to offer a variety of programs to promote education, job training, behavior management, parenting skills and other life skills that will enable a smoother transition back into society.

While we are already a part of the national effort, we at Corizon Health want to be at the forefront of this reentry initiative. We have already done a lot of groundwork in terms of better understanding the offerings that we have, that our operators have and how to best optimize those offerings, and we fully intend to continue to invest in this area over time.