This month, the “Take Charge of Your Health Today” page focuses on the continuity of care after incarceration. Vianca Masucci, health advocate at the Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh, and Esther L. Bush, president and CEO of the Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh, exchanged ideas on this topic.
EB: Hello, Vianca. You must be pleased to be covering post-incarceration health care this month. I understand that it’s a topic that’s close to your heart.
VM: It is, Ms. Bush. Because African Americans are incarcerated at disproportionately high rates, many of our programs at the Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh keep the needs of previously incarcerated individuals in mind. Consequently, I often have the opportunity to counsel these clients on getting the health care they need.
EB: Incarceration can have ramifications in so many directions, long past confinement. What has been your experience when helping formerly incarcerated members of our community establish and navigate their health care?
VM: What I’ve found is that there are many needs and barriers in place for previously incarcerated individuals when it comes to standardizing their health care. Many of my clients suffer from some kind of chronic illness or are ill because they didn’t receive the best health care while incarcerated. Many don’t have health records or established relationships with doctors. Most of them need help securing health insurance. Almost all of them struggle with the cost of care, especially those who are having trouble finding employment. Even those who did have established care before incarceration struggle to get reconnected after so many months or even years of being confined. It’s a lot of work and takes extensive knowledge of the health care system and preventative care recommendations to really help a previously incarcerated individual bring his or her care up to standard.