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State officials discuss trauma and substance abuse among incarcerated women | Friday morning coffee


Good Friday, Dear Researchers.

Associate editor Cassie Miller here, replacing John today.

Wednesday, The First Lady of Pennsylvania Frances Wolf hosted the third panel in a series of virtual roundtables with mental health professionals and state officials to discuss mental health and addiction among women in the Commonwealth criminal justice system.

“As a society we are becoming more and more aware of the role mental health plays in our collective well-being and we see the downsides of not addressing it or not dealing with our trauma,” Wolf said on Wednesday. .

The Pennsylvania Department of Corrections reports that about 66 percent of women in state correctional facilities (SCI) are on the DOC mental health list; more … than 50 percent of women have a history of substance abuse.

“It is crucial that we understand the impacts that trauma and mental illness have on women before and during incarceration, and what this means for their successful reintegration into our communities after their release.” Dr Dan Jurman, executive director of the Pennsylvania Office of Advocacy and Reform (OAR) said. “When you understand the effects of these traumas, you can work to prevent them and create environments where these women can thrive. “

Jurman added that 50 percent of substance use can be traced back to childhood trauma, calling trauma and incarceration “Intersectional problems”.

Among the main concerns shared by panelists on Wednesday was the role of incarcerated and formerly incarcerated women as mothers and caregivers.

“You are not only dealing with the woman on parole, you are dealing with families” Kelly Evans, Assistant Secretary of Return to the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections noted. “More 80 percent of women who enter our system have gone through some sort of trauma in their lives. There is no more connection than that.

Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs Secretary Jen Smith speaks at a press conference, which discussed the need to expand our focus on focusing opioids to combat disorders linked to substance use overall with increasing use of polysubstances and stimulants across the Commonwealth, inside the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency in Harrisburg on Monday, Oct. 18, 2021 (Commonwealth photo Media Services).

Secretary of the Department of Drug and Alcohol Control Programs, Jen Smith told virtual participants that the Pennsylvania criminal justice system has an “opportunity” to put women who re-enter their communities at the lowest possible risk upon re-entry.

“Once back in the community, one of the first things they’ll look to do if they aren’t treated is use,” Smith said, adding that 50 percent of those incarcerated have a untreated substance abuse disorder.

Smith said untreated substance abuse disorders lead to “dangerously high” overdose rates upon readmission.

Local and state entities, such as single county authorities, which help formerly incarcerated people find housing, employment and access support, are key to supporting reintegration, Smith said.

She added that funding such supports before a person is released is essential to reduce recidivism, adding that the support should not stop once a person has returned to their community.

“DOC couldn’t do half of what we do without the community,” Evans said, noting that the department is implementing “Trauma informed” care approaches, and now requires new hires in Pennsylvania women’s prisons to complete “Women offenders in the correctional services of the Palestinian Authority” coaching.

“We really all have to work together,” Evans said. “I think we’ve made great strides in Pennsylvania,” adding that the department will continue to make changes.

The next Women in Reentry roundtable in the series is scheduled for Wednesday December 15th.

Pennsylvania State Capitol. (Capital-Star photo by Cassie Miller.)

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