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The Co-ordinated Access on Release Group looks for opportunities to address equitable access to health services for people on release from prison and those on remand, so their hauora (health and wellbeing) is supported, as well as their whānau.

The group is made up of cross-sector representatives from the Department of Corrections, health and social services, so collaboration across these sectors can occur.

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Initiative to improve hauora of people leaving prison in Canterbury extended

11 Jul, 2022 | Return|

Funding for a programme which aims to support people recently released from prison to re-engage with their general practice in Canterbury has been extended.

The Te Ara Whakapuāwai (People of Release) Programme, which is a partnership between Canterbury Health providers, social agencies and Ara Poutama Corrections is now available to anyone released from prison. 

Te Whatu Ora - Health New Zealand Waitaha Canterbury funding is available for three free visits with a GP, including an extended first consult, for all persons leaving prisons into the Canterbury district and people returning from Australia to Canterbury on a Section 501 order. This includes people who have been in prison on Remand.

Te Ara Whakapuāwai aims to remove obstacles of enrolment, cost, discomfort and potential whakamā (embarrassment or shame) for this group of the community. 

We know that people in our services are amongst the least health connected in our community, says Corrections’ Southern Region Operations Director Health, Jill Thomson. 

“Te Ara Whakapuāwai will encourage and support prison leavers to maintain the health gains they have made in prison and to continue to access their essential medications,” says Jill.

People will be able to access a voucher for the service through their Probation Officer, Case Manager, the Court team or prison health services.

“Most people will have a probation officer and will be provided with information and a voucher at their first meeting. For people leaving prison without the need for Community Corrections services, a voucher will be issued at, or just prior, to release by prison staff connecting with our community team.”

While people don’t need a voucher to access the service, the group believe having this will increase people’s comfort and reduce concerns of a difficult conversation or unexpected charge at the health services’ reception area.

The CCN Coordinated Access on Release Group, which is behind the initiative, has been meeting for several years and is made up of representatives of health and social services from across Canterbury, including Te Whatu Ora - Health New Zealand Waitaha Canterbury, Christchurch Primary Health Organisation (PHO), Pegasus Health, Waitaha Primary Health, He Waka Tapu, ACC, Ministry of Social Development (MSD), Laura Fergusson Trust, and other community health organisations. 

“The organisations in this group all have a goal to improve health equity and outcomes in the community and this has led to us exploring a wide range of initiatives including eradicating Hep C in prisons, improving ACC reporting and referrals,” says Jill.

“The group also recognise that the challenges to health services often begin before the person reaches a GP. Many GP practices are full and some people we work with may feel they have burned bridges with their GP through their behaviour including bad debts. People having difficulty finding a GP can be helped to enrol through the Partnership Community Workers (PCWs) service.” 

Laila Cooper, Acting Chair of the Coordinated Access on Release Working Group, welcomes the introduction of the revamped Te Ara Whakapuāwai service. It has been very encouraging to work with colleagues from other sectors to develop this initiative designed to help address gaps in the health system for this population. I have been impressed by the dedication and commitment of the Working Group members to work collaboratively and problem solve and hope that this will be an ongoing process.  
The initiative has been running for some time for people who have served a prison sentence of more than two years and for Australian returnees. 

The programme also supports people on release to connect with services to support their mental and physical health and other health supports and resources in the community.

In addition, a new Post-Imprisonment Health Assessment HealthPathway is now available and covers the initial approach to physical health checks by general practitioners and practice nurses for this group.

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Supporting people recently released from prison re-engage with general practice

Supporting people recently released from prison re-engage with general practice

A programme to support people who have recently been released from prison re-engage with their gener...

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Useful resources

Te Ara Whakapuāwai brochure

Helping people leaving prison connect with health services.

Programme information

Te Ara Whakapuāwai information for corrections staff.