Formerly incarcerated men and women who are HIV positive will now have increased access to Fortune Society’s network of transitional healthcare services as well as supportive, long-term follow-up care, thanks to a new grant from Kaiser Permanente, one of America’s leading health care providers and not-for-profit health plans. The grant will also allow the organization to work more closely with its long-standing partners, including the New York City Department of Correction, which operates Rikers Island and New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, as well as newer national partners like the Center for Prisoner Health & Human Rights and the National Minority AIDS Council.
The $250,000 grant, to be awarded over a two-year period, will support and expand the Fortune Society’s Health Services program, specifically its Drop-In Center on Rikers Island. Services focus on identifying HIV positive individuals in jail and facilitating post-release linkages to essential healthcare services including doctor referrals, counseling, HIV-specific housing, transportation, substance abuse and mental health treatment and more.
This new funding will enable Fortune Society to connect an even greater number of formerly incarcerated individuals with the services they need to stay on track, as well as provide them with extended, intensive long-term follow-up care beyond our current 90 day period. Fortune will also hire a specialist who will work closely with these individuals, evaluating them at key points during their treatment in an effort to measure the impact and effectiveness of the program.
“HIV prevalence is four times higher among people in jail and prison than in non-incarcerated populations. That is why this grant is so critical,” said JoAnne Page, President and CEO of The Fortune Society.
“Without support and a proper health plan in place, many recently released individuals become disconnected from care – resulting in unfilled prescriptions, missed medical appointments, and a return to behaviors that often lead back to jail or prison. It’s crucial that we intervene immediately -- offering transitional healthcare services upon release, as well as ongoing supportive care too. This grant will not only enable Fortune Society to expand these life-saving services, but determine and measure the effectiveness of our program model also. We are grateful to Kaiser Permanente for helping us to provide the best possible care to our clients who need it the most,” Page added.
“Through this important work by Fortune Society, it is possible to create communities where new HIV infections are rare. However, when they do occur, every person, regardless of age, gender, race or ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity or socio-economic circumstance, will be aware of their status and have unfettered access to high quality, life-extending care, free from stigma and discrimination,” said Raymond J. Baxter, senior vice president, Community Benefit, Research and Health Policy. “This work also reflects the kind of comprehensive approach to total health that we are currently bringing to our members and the communities we serve, which means everyone should have access to the highest quality care when – and where - they need it the most.”
The grant will also permit Fortune to conduct rapid, on-site HIV testing of clients who come to Fortune for post-release services. It will also support prevention education that will help reduce the likelihood of HIV transmission to others in the community. More importantly, this grant will allow Fortune to replicate this model across the country through national conferences, webinars, and site visits, and help to guide policy-makers and service providers through the process of implementing similar models.
Fortune was one of the first organizations in the nation to recognize and address HIV/AIDS in jails and prisons. It began its HIV Health Services program in 1990 in response to the high rates of HIV found among the criminal justice population. Its services include HIV prevention education; HIV counseling, testing, and referral; connection to health care; and HIV-specific housing. Fortune also provides licensed substance abuse and mental health treatment delivered by a culturally competent staff. Case Managers work on Rikers Island to provide transitional planning, transportation, coordination of care, post-release case management, and connections to medical care.