By William Vatterott
Grants and Development Manager
Few groups are as at-risk as ex-offenders; most leave prison unemployed, uninsured, and wearing the scarlet letter of their crime. They also suffer from a high rate of physical and mental illnesses and may lack access to affordable healthcare and medication which make the transition to society more difficult. Fortunately, a new program is available to help ex-offenders stay healthy.
The “Healthy Transitions” program was launched in April 2016 to fill the “medication gap” that occurs between when an ex-offender is released from prison and the time that they are able to get a new prescription. Funded through a grant by the Lutheran Foundation of St. Louis, the program provides an additional 60 days of free medication for ex-offenders released to the St. Louis area so that they are able to manage their mental and physical health needs until they can get to a community clinic, have an examination, get a new prescription, and establish a new medical home.
The Healthy Transitions program is a collaborative effort between Rx Outreach, Corizon Health, and Missouri Department of Corrections - Probation and Parole. People are enrolled from the prison by Corizon Health and prescription orders sent to Rx Outreach for processing, which then mails medications directly to ex-offenders.
By providing free medication to ex-offenders, the Healthy Transitions program will increase access to medications and ongoing healthcare, provide a continuum of care which will fill the medicine gap, and reduce unnecessary ER visits for ex-offenders.
Analysis of the 1,665 prescriptions mailed through the first seven months of the project confirms the serious health conditions that the program addresses including mental illness, high blood pressure, and diabetes. 414 people have received prescriptions through the program. Participants receive, on average, four scripts each, and 44% receive mental health medication.
Participants receive incentivized surveys to determine satisfaction, improved adherence to medication regimen, effectiveness of medicines, timeliness of initial doctor's appointment, and use of other medical services. While it is too early to measure all outcomes, it is believed that participants in the Healthy Transitions program will have improved access to medication compared to baseline, a reduction of risk factors for recidivism, and a better continuity of care as they transition from incarceration. Funding is currently being sought to expand the Healthy Transitions program to the entire state of Missouri.
Rx Outreach is a non-profit, fully licensed mail-order pharmacy that exists to create healthier communities by providing low-cost and free medications to underserved, low income, and chronically ill people. Over 71,000 people in all 50 states received their prescriptions from Rx Outreach last year, including thousands in the St. Louis area.
For more information on the Healthy Transitions program or Rx Outreach, please contact April Green, Healthy Transitions Coordinator, at 314-627-6178 or visit www.rxoutreach.org.