Newswise — HOUSTON – Angela House, in collaboration with The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) and Healthcare for the Homeless – Houston (HHH), has received a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to evaluate a holistic health care program for formerly incarcerated women.

Angela House is a nonprofit residential transition program for women who are homeless or at risk of being homeless upon their immediate release from prison or jail. In addition to providing safe housing, food and clothing, residents at Angela House participate in individual and group therapy, intensive treatment for addiction and weekly 12-step groups.

“Many of the women we serve leave prison or jail with a multitude of unaddressed needs, including physical and behavioral health care, that keep them cycling in and out of the criminal justice system. Many are also survivors of physical, sexual or emotional abuse,” said Alycia Welch, co-investigator and associate director of Angela House, one of the few such programs in the country and the only one in Houston. “Angela House is unique because it addresses those needs simultaneously in a supportive environment.”

Angela House and HHH created the health care program, Healthy & Whole, for its residents to address factors that contribute to adverse health outcomes among formerly incarcerated women. The program is intended to improve the physical and mental health of program participants and to reduce the risk of their return to the criminal justice system. Residents receive primary care that includes behavioral health care and intensive medical case management, trauma-specific care, wellness and exercise therapy, health education, employment counseling and skill building, arts programming and direct peer support.

The evaluation will assess the potential of the program to meet the needs and goals of participants. To do so, the evaluators will track recidivism, the rate at which individuals return to the criminal justice system, and its associated outcomes, such as continued substance use.

“The first aim of the assessment will be to better identify the needs of women exiting the criminal justice system,” said Vanessa R. Schick, Ph.D., co-principal investigator and assistant professor of management, policy and community health at UTHealth School of Public Health. “Most of the literature is focused on the needs of men or predictors of recidivism. We know less about what these women feel that they need in order to make their lives better and safer.”

Co-principal investigator is Andrea Link, M.D., program manager of Healthy & Whole at HHH. Co-investigator is Ellerie Weber, Ph.D., assistant professor of management, policy and community health at UTHealth School of Public Health.

“The information obtained from the evaluation will help Angela House and HHH adjust Healthy & Whole according to the results,” said Frances Isbell, CEO of HHH. “It will also help Houston and other communities in Texas decide how to distribute limited resources to more effectively address the unmet health care needs of formerly incarcerated women.”

The grant is part of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s “Evaluating Innovative Approaches to Improving Health Outcomes Among Vulnerable Populations” initiative.

For more information on Healthy & Whole at Angela House, please visit