Newswise — NEW YORK, July 17, 2014 -- More than 58% of parolees and those released from prison who are sent to the Bronx from New York State prisons have major chronic conditions, including substance abuse and mental issues, AIDS, and hepatitis C, according to a new study by Health People: Community Preventive Health Institute to be released today at The Bronx Re-Entry Working Group’s annual forum to be held at Hostos Community College, The Savoy Room, 120 East 149th Street, from 10 a.m. to 3p.m.

The study, “Health Gaps Survey of Bronx Re-Entry Populations,” sponsored by the Elton John AIDS Foundation, also found that, despite state policy that says prison releases should return to the area where they lived prior to prison, 38% of those surveyed who had been sent to the Bronx by the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision said they had never lived in the Bronx. “Concentrating this number of people with major health needs in a targeted area is very self-defeating,” said Chris Norwood, Executive Director of Health People and lead author of the study. “It does not enable the releases to integrate back into the communities they know and it starts to overwhelm the poor neighborhoods where they are sent in such high concentrations.”

“The forum is designed to give help and hope to the re-entering populations of the Bronx, “said Ramon Semorile, Co-Chair of the Bronx Re-Entry Working Group. “We are working together to overcome these challenges and make re-entry a success.”

The study also documented major barriers to re-entry populations receiving appropriate care. For example, 58% said they did not have a Medicaid card on leaving prison and almost two-thirds (64%) were not given a basic package of their medical records.

These results of the survey were based on interviews with 151 Bronx prison releases, most of whom had been sent to shelters and other temporary housing in the South Bronx. Overall, 58% reported having substance abuse problems, 17 % mental health problems and 13 % said they were in treatment for HIV/AIDS -- more than six-fold higher than the 2% HIV rate of Bronx adults.

“This study certainly underscores a crisis in health for prison releases which must be addressed,” said Norwood. “We are hopeful Governor Cuomo’s new Re-Entry Task Force will seriously address both the concentration of ill releases in targeted areas and the barriers to their care”

About Health PeopleHealth People is a groundbreaking peer education, prevention and support organization in the South Bronx whose mission is to train and empower residents of communities overwhelmed by chronic disease and AIDS to become leaders and educators in effectively preventing ill health, hospitalization, and unnecessary death.

Established in 1990 as women’s AIDS prevention and support program, Health People has grown, using its peer-education model, to provide a full range of HIV/AIDS services for men, women and families. It also has conducted community asthma programs, New York’s first diabetes peer-educators program, and a community smoking cessation program. Health People’s Junior Peer program, Kids-Helping-Kids includes teens who are mentors for younger children with sick or missing parents. -###-

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