Patricia Threats, R.N., Principal Public Health Promotion Specialist
A supervisor/public health promotion specialist and three public health education (PHE) specialists make up Rhode Island Department of Corrections’ Infectious Disease Prevention Education and Counseling Team. The primary goal of the team is to provide health education and disease prevention to the Rhode Island Department of Corrections community to ensure that individuals obtain the necessary knowledge to pursue good health. Two of the team members are licensed clinical social workers and one is a Registered Nurse certified in AIDS care and holds a Ph.D in public health.
The PHE’s provide health prevention and infectious disease education to new commitments and to the sentenced population. The team members deliver a wide range of educational activities throughout the Department, addressing both the needs of the inmate population as well as staff. These educational classes include general health topics with a strong emphasis placed on HIV, viral hepatitis, tuberculosis, and MRSA (staphylococcus aureus that is resistant to first-line antibiotics).
Other learning sessions offered by the PHE’s include intensive risk reduction education, healthy life styles changes, and life skills. Voluntary smoking cessation sessions classes are offered to inmates to help maintain their smoke-free status upon release. All HIV-positive inmates are seen twice a week by Dr. Rich and Dr. Flanigan, infectious disease specialists from Miriam Hospital’s Immunology Clinic. Medical services and ongoing education is offered during clinical visits to promote better quality of life and to prevent further transmission. Dr. Rich and Dr. Flanigan continue to see a large percentage of the HIV-positive population after their release. The HIV nurse also offers individual educational services to HIV-positive clients and acts as a liaison between community-based agencies to maintain continuity of care. The Project Bridge Program offers a case management service to HIV-positive individuals which involves meeting with inmates two to three times prior to release to assist them with their discharge plans.Psychosocial issues are addressed during individual and group counseling sessions. The team members are often called upon to assist HIV-positive inmates and high risk individual with their after-release plan collaborating with community agencies to ensure a smoother transition for offenders re-entering their communities.
The PHE’s have also been instrumental in the development of health care policy and procedures, providing Power Point presentation materials and educational sessions on communicable diseases to new employees, uniformed and non uniformed staff.