FCI and WMHS Team Up to Provide Inmate Health Fair
Pictured are (front, from left) Dorian Birkholz, Western Maryland AHEC; Theresa Stahl, WMHS; Lindsay Montgomery, WMHS; Ruth Chisholm, WMHS; Jen Thomas, WMHS; Deanna Clark, HRDC; David Stewart, Rural Action Enrollment Network; Kyle Calp, YMCA. Back row: Mindy Dodrill, Western Maryland AHEC; Doug Deremer, FCI; Jade Bean, WMHS; Don Enterline, YMCA; William Lafferty, Allegany County Health Department; Susan Malone, HRDC; Joseph Booher, FCI.
Approximately 60 inmates participated in a recent health fair held at the Federal Correctional Institution (FCI) in Cumberland, MD.
A partnership between Western Maryland Health System (WMHS) and FCI made the concept a reality after several months of planning and coordination by Jen Thomas, Health Educator, WMHS Community Health and Wellness; Joseph Booher, Recreation Specialist, FCI; and Doug Deremer, Supervisor of Recreation, FCI.
The purpose of the health fair was to help prepare inmates for release by educating them with valuable health information and connecting them with resources like housing and health insurance coverage. Taking ownership of their health and knowing where to turn for resources will aid in a successful transition back into society.
After release from prison, life often becomes more difficult for ex-offenders than it was while locked-up. New challenges arise related to housing, medical care, mental health treatment, employment, and more. A deficiency in any one of these areas could be a serious risk factor for them to relapse and return to prison.
Inmates were able to visit each booth, interacting with the attendees and taking advantage of valuable screenings.
"This could not have happened without all of the agencies and departments that agreed to participate. I have to admit, I did not know what to expect when I invited our partners to take part, but I was pleasantly surprised. They were eager to help and share resources in their area of expertise,” said Jen Thomas, WMHS.
Health fair partners included WMHS Community Health and Wellness, which provided stress reduction and meditation information, along with blood pressure screening and body fat/BMI analysis. WMHS Behavioral Health offered resources on coping, depression, and anxiety. WMHS dietitians provided dietary guidelines and healthy eating information. Western Maryland Area Health Education Center gave inmates oral health materials; Allegany County Health Department provided education on pre-diabetes and offered a screening; the Rural Action Enrollment Network provided information on obtaining health insurance once released; Allegany County Human Resource Development Commission (HRDC) offered resources on obtaining housing; and the YMCA of Cumberland gave inmates the opportunity to talk with a personal trainer regarding physical fitness and safety.
All partners reported that the event was extremely worthwhile along with being a very effective way to help inmates once they are released back into society. The event will most likely continue by offering the fair at least once, if not twice, a year. One inmate was quoted "The health people all had a wealth of information that can help us when we're in here, and when we are released. It was a great experience."
For more information or questions, contact Jen Thomas, WMHS Community Health and Wellness at 240-964-8417.