AHSG RWJF Mistak Letter

COCHS Announces Critical Support from RWJF and Aspen Health Strategy Group’s New Report on Health and Incarceration
April 11, 2022
Dear Colleague:
COCHS was founded through a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation in 2005 in order to improve the health of individuals and communities engaged with the justice system. Our work has consistently demonstrated the following: 1) Black and brown populations not only face worse community health outcomes, but the challenges they face are exacerbated by the ever-present carceral system; 2) discontinuities between the health and the justice system lead to the poor outcomes described above; and 3) local health and correctional systems want change, but face structural barriers that only can be remedied through federal statutory or regulatory changes and state investment in solving these challenges.
In recognition of the three lessons above, we are pleased to announce that COCHS is the recipient of another grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to further our essential work. In the coming months, we look forward to working with you to construct a future where health and justice work towards the same ends. This generous grant supports our efforts to work with local leaders and systems to identify ways in which the rapidly changing health care landscape can be deployed to strengthen the health of justice-involved individuals and reduce reliance on carceral settings to respond to people’s unmet health care needs. Look forward to targeted policy briefs that will help health and justice stakeholders build a more equitable health system—wherever people receive care.
This announcement comes on the heels of this week’s release of the report Reducing the Health Harms of Incarceration from the Aspen Health Strategy Group (AHSG). One of the sections authored by Legal Action Center’s Tracie Gardner and myself, Dan Mistak, focuses on the mental health services offered in corrections. Our paper guided this group of health leaders as they grappled with the reality of our carceral health systems and made several recommendations for reducing the health impacts of incarceration. A key recommendation from the AHSG’s report is to eliminate the inmate exclusion policy found in the Social Security Act, which has hamstrung policymakers who have tried to create continuity of care and high-quality services for justice-involved people. The AHSG now adds its voice to the broad consensus of policy makers and stakeholders advocating for such a change. With our grant from RWJF, we hope to explore with you a future where such a policy exists and where people with unmet needs can receive better care, everywhere.

Sincerely,
Dan Mistak MA, MS, JD
Acting President
Director of Health Care Initiatives for Justice-Involved Individuals