MAINTAINING CONTINUITY OF CARE FROM PRISON TO SOCIETY
Why should healthcare be a part of your reentry plan?
How often do you hear people on the yard talking about where to get a medical check-up when they get out? Most people, understandably, are thinking about getting a job, finding a place to live, and restoring relationships. Very few people think about where they will get healthcare services. But to do any of the things you want to do in freedom, you need to be healthy.
The reality is that most people in state prison have at least one chronic health condition. Chronic conditions include hypertension (high blood pressure), diabetes, cancer, substance use disorder, or mental health conditions. These conditions all require some sort of ongoing care, whether that be medications, healthy diet, and/or regular visits to a medical provider.
Many people are first diagnosed or develop medical conditions while incarcerated, so they may not have had any experience with health care in the community. Also, many people have had bad experiences with health care while incarcerated or prior to incarceration. To those individuals, we ask you to trust those of us who have also walked your path and found a clinic in the community that cares about returning community members and treats us with humanity. TCN clinics have services specially tailored for returning community members.
What are some first steps to making health care plans for my reentry?
Request important medical records: When you’re about 90 days from your estimated release date, request a copy of your medical records. CDCR will charge you for medical records per page. Because of this cost, we recommend requesting specific, important records about your chronic health conditions, such as most recent doctor visits, medications you take, operations you’ve had, or diagnostic studies like xrays or MRIs. To request medical records, complete Form 7632.
Complete Medi-Cal enrollment paperwork with Transitional Case Management Program (TCMP) staff: Each CDCR institution has a team of social workers who should come see you 30-90 days before your release. They will sign you up for Medi-Cal (free health insurance) and social security/disability benefits (SSI/SSDI), if eligible. Almost everyone who is coming home from prison can get Medi-Cal. It pays for doctor’s visits and medications for medical, mental health, and substance use care. Make sure that you sign the paperwork before you leave for the county where you will live in the community! If you are within 30 days of release and have not yet seen a TCMP social worker, submit a Form 22 Request for Interview.
Learn about any medications you take: It will help your reentry if you know what medications you need, why they are prescribed to you, and the amount/dose of each medication. If you don’t know about your medications, ask your doctor! And request a copy of your most up-to-date medication list. You will be given a 30-day supply of medications when you’re released, then you will need to find a doctor in the community to refill them.
Sign up to receive your California ID (CAL-ID): To apply for anything in the community (Medi-Cal, benefits, etc.), you need some form of identification. CDCR has the California Identification Card (CAL-ID) Program, which provides a valid CAL-ID to eligible individuals. If you are unable to get this CAL-ID, bring your prison ID home so that you have some form of identification in the community.
Is there anything different that lifers or those going before the board can do to prepare?
It’s important to show the parole board that you’re thinking ahead and taking charge of your own medical care. Reach out us at TCN and we can help you with writing a letter of support to include a TCN clinic in your reentry plans.
How can TCN help with your medical needs in reentry?
TCN helps returning community members make reentry plans and get connected to health care services in the community following release. We can help you find a clinic in your county of return and learn how to get health insurance. We may also be able to help you connect to community health workers (CHWs) who have been in your shoes in navigating reentry.
We are thrilled to communicate with you inside! If you have healthcare-related questions about reentry, feel free to write us at: Transitions Clinic Network, 2403 Keith Street, San Francisco, CA 94124. Or call our Reentry Health Hotline today at (510) 606-6400 to speak with a CHW and to see if there’s a TCN program in your community of return. We accept collect calls from CDCR. We are open Monday to Friday, 9am-5pm.