Anna Steiner warns that going home from prison can be hazardous to your health. Steiner is a social worker and medical discharge planner at San Quentin.
“Individuals being released from prison are at a high risk of dying within the first two weeks of release,” Steiner told the San Quentin News. “These risks are from causes such as drug overdose, heart attack and cancer.”
Steiner runs a San Quentin medical discharge clinic for chronically ill prisoners who will soon be going home.
Steiner’s goal is to educate inmates about their right to health care and connect them to the best resources for coping with hepatitis C, diabetes, hypertension or behavioral health conditions, mental health and substance abuse.
Only a health care provider in the community is qualified to address these issues, so Steiner gives clients copies of their most recent San Quentin medical records, talks to them about health insurance, such as MediCal, gives lectures about overdose prevention, and provides instruction about how to get medications refilled.
She can also connect individuals with a primary care physician and other resources in their community.
Mainline prisoners are often unaware that a medical discharge planner works at San Quentin Prison.
Steiner’s employer is Transitions Clinic Network (TCN), which is a national network of community health care clinics that has a special program for the formerly incarcerated.
“People who have experienced incarceration many times come from communities where access to health care is limited, if at all available. They may only see a doctor when they are incarcerated and have had negative experiences with health care, inside and out.
“I want to make sure that people who are returning home know where to go to get the services they deserve. We’re also working to make sure that doctors in the community know how to best serve individuals coming home to help with a healthy and successful reentry.”
Each TCN clinic employs a community health care worker with a personal history of incarceration as part of the clinic team. These community workers include many who have felony convictions and have successfully reentered the community themselves.
Besides securing better service for recently released prisoners, TCN’s mission includes obtaining meaningful jobs for people with histories of incarceration.
Steiner will see any chronically ill person within three months of release. Her clients are referred directly by medical staff at San Quentin, or an inmate may sign up on sheets posted in each housing unit.
Persons who have immigration (ICE) holds are encouraged to enroll as well.
Steiner visits San Quentin on Wednesdays, and clients get priority based on date of release and severity of health needs.