The Health Department announced a campaign to educate health care providers on how to care for patients who disclose a history of criminal justice involvement. These individuals have higher rates of chronic conditions, such as cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure and diabetes; infectious disease; substance use; and mental health
conditions compared to the general population.
In a study, more than 40 percent of men released from state correctional facilities reported discrimination by health care providers due to their criminal record. To improve care, Health Department staff will conduct one-on-one visits with health care providers and staff at nearly 160 primary care and family medicine practices in East and Central Harlem, North and Central Brooklyn and the South Bronx. The outreach campaign begins today and will continue through early January. The Criminal Justice Action
Kit is available online.
In addition, the Health Department released a report on the health outcomes of New Yorkers who have experienced criminal justice system involvement. The City has implemented dramatic reforms to make New York’s justice system smaller, safer and fairer—including reducing the jail population to its lowest level in nearly 40 years, as well as significant reforms to policing. However, more than 1 in 3 adults, or 2.4 million people, report ever experiencing criminal justice system involvement. The report, “Criminal Justice System Involvement and Measures of Health among New York City Residents, 2017,” is available online.
“The data show that involvement with the criminal justice system—even brief contact with the police or indirect exposure—is associated with lasting harm to people’s physical and mental health,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot. “People with a history of justice involvement are one of the hardest populations to reach and engage in care. Health care providers can use the approaches outlined in our Action Kit to create a welcoming environment and build trust to ensure all patients, especially those with lived experience, get the care they need.”
Highlights of the Criminal Justice Action Kit:
Screen comprehensively for chronic diseases, infectious diseases, and behavioral health conditions including substance use.
Connect patients with local organizations familiar with the needs of justice-involved individuals.
Use “people-first” language. For example, instead of “former felon” or “ex-criminal,” say “person with a history of criminal justice involvement.”
Explain that your clinician-patient relationship means that the care you provide is not connected with the criminal justice system and information shared is confidential.
If your patient discloses a history of criminal justice involvement, do not ask for information about specific charges or convictions. Ask only about their previous health care experiences while involved with the criminal justice system.
The physical care environment should promote a sense of safety for your patients. Consider minimizing the presence of uniformed security guards in the practice environment.
Clearly explain what the examination will entail so your patients know what to expect. Ask for consent from patients so they feel in control of their body and do not feel anxious or threatened during the visit.
Ask patients if they are uncomfortable changing into a gown; if so, let them know they can stay fully clothed while you
conduct the exam.
Emerging evidence suggests that geriatric conditions, such as functional impairment and chronic disease multimorbidity, may appear at significantly younger ages among people with a history of incarceration, indicating premature aging. Consider screening patients with a history of criminal justice involvement earlier for chronic diseases and conditions typically associated with older adults.
All New Yorkers, including those with a history of criminal justice involvement, can access resources for smoking, high blood pressure, mental health and substance use concerns. Contact NYC Well if you or someone you know needs support with depression, drug use or suicidal thoughts by calling 1-888-NYC-WELL, texting “WELL” to 65173 or going to nyc.gov/nycwell. Free, confidential support is available at any hour of the day accessible in over 200 languages.
People with criminal justice involvement can also connect to community-based organizations and other services through the Fortune Society’s online re-entry resource directory. For more info visit