Local and Community News
New Jersey: Pilot Program Helps Ex-Convicts Stay on the Right Path
February 11, 2003
Darrel found out he was HIV-positive in 1998. He was tested after a female companion died from complications of AIDS. He was not shocked by the diagnosis. As a drug abuser, he had already been diagnosed with hepatitis C, diabetes and depression. "Any one of these things ... could kill me," he said.Adapted from:
Darrel has been clean for 53 months and attends Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous support group meetings every day. Darrel attributes the change in his life and his attitude toward the future to the AIDS Coalition of Southern New Jersey.
The AIDS Coalition, based in Bellmawr, has been providing that needed support to HIV/AIDS clients since 1989. The coalition already has a program, Connecting Link, for prison inmates. It has received a $456,000 two-year grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation for Keeping Connected, a pilot program to assist inmates after they are released.
Most of those who will benefit from Keeping Connected are from Camden County, but former inmates from Burlington, Gloucester and Salem counties and those who have relocated to the area from other parts of the state also are eligible for assistance. Many begin to mainstream into the program, which began at the end of last year, while still in jail. They can be substance abusers, persons with mental illness, HIV patients or people at high risk for HIV, said Dafne Armstrong, director of client services. "We provide them with local services and follow-up," Armstrong said. "We make sure they are keeping connected to these services. We want to improve their quality of life."
Armstrong said the former inmates would receive treatment for addiction as well as mental health evaluation and counseling. There are 28 active clients. Armstrong estimated that Keeping Connected would serve about 250 clients over the two-year period of the pilot program. She said that, although inmates received treatment in jail, they often fall through the cracks after they are released.
"It's more than the HIV status," said AIDS Coalition President and CEO Thomas H. Sauerman. "We're concerned about their general health so that they can stay whole."
02.09.03; Rosalee Polk Rhodes
This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.