Celebrating the Importance of Second Chance Month

Every April, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) honors Second Chance Month, where we recognize the importance of supporting the successful reentry of the hundreds of thousands of people returning to their communities from prison. every year and many more who return from prison. .1 Second Chance Month is an important time to encourage and encourage federal, state, local, and tribal governments and community organizations to continue working to address the barriers faced by returning members of our community. The Biden Administration has prioritized intervention models to help those returning from incarceration find success, such as by funding and promoting job training, mental health and substance use services, access to health care, and more.2

Within HHS, we recognize the importance of our work in the reentry process, supporting the health and well-being of returning community members and their families. This includes working to address the increased risk of death and overdose.3 after liberation and to help families reunify. While not as commonly associated with HHS, homelessness is another key issue that needs to be addressed for those returning from prison, as people who have been incarcerated are nearly ten times more likely to be homeless than the public. in general.4 Secretary Becerra has championed these administrative priorities and, as current Chair of the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH), preventing homelessness for returning community members is one of the populations in which which is focused on being particularly susceptible to housing challenges.

At HHS, we also recognize that a crucial component of our work in this area is listening to those directly affected by incarceration to help inform our policy and program decisions. At the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation, I am proud to say that we have not only investigated and published strategies for doing this, but we have also implemented these practices in our own work. For example, by calling our Medicaid Reentry Stakeholder Group To inform the design of a Medicaid demonstration opportunity focused on improving transitions of care for people prior to release, we made sure to include people who had experienced incarceration in the group.

Internally, ASPE and HHS have been working to educate our staff on reentry issues through a year-long series of learning sessions. Our hope is that through these learning sessions all HHS employees will have the opportunity to learn about the reentry process, the resources that are already available, and how to consider this population in their work. Although these are internal trainings, their benefits will be far-reaching. Others across HHS are also participating in their own agency-specific efforts to raise awareness about Second Chance Month. For example, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for HIV, Viral Hepatitis, STD and Tuberculosis Prevention is hosting multiple events for its staff, including a reentry simulation, speakers with lived experiences incarceration and a visit to a local reentry center. .

HHS is also taking steps to meet the specific needs of those returning to the community. This includes the launch of the new Medicaid Demonstration Opportunity, and California became the first state to cover certain pre-release health care services for people returning to their communities and other states followed. Additionally, the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) has announced the availability of $51 million for the first funding opportunity for HRSA-funded health centers to implement innovative approaches to support transitions in care for people who They come out of incarceration. HRSA has also updated the policy to make clear that health centers can provide health services to incarcerated individuals who are expected to be released or are scheduled to be released from a jail setting within 90 days to help ensure the continuity of care.

While there is much work to do, we are excited and hopeful about these investments in the re-entry population from all levels of the federal government.5

Final notes

1 https://bjs.ojp.gov/document/p22st.pdf; https://www.prisonpolicy.org/blog/2024/02/28/releases-sex-state/

2 https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/presidential-actions/2024/03/29/a-proclamation-on-second-chance-month-2024/

3 Binswanger, Ingrid A., Marc F. Stern, Richard A. Deyo, Patrick J. Heagerty, Allen Cheadle, Joann G. Elmore, and Thomas D. Koepsell. “Release from prison: a high risk of death for former inmates.” New England Journal of Medicine 356, no. 2 (2007): 157-165.; Patterson, Evelyn J. “The dose-response of time served in prison on mortality: New York State, 1989-2003.” American Journal of Public Health 103, no. 3 (2013): 523-528.

4 https://www.prisonpolicy.org/reports/housing.html

5 Links and references to information from non-governmental organizations are provided for informational purposes and do not represent an endorsement, recommendation, or preference by HHS for non-governmental organizations.

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