New York health department says exposure to criminal justice system 'associated with lasting harm'

New York health department says exposure to criminal justice system 'associated with lasting harm'
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A report from the New York City Department of Health found contact with the criminal justice system, however brief, is associated with major health risks, according to BuzzFeed News.

“The data show that involvement with the criminal justice system – even brief contact with the police or indirect exposure – is associated with lasting harm to people’s physical and mental health,” City Health Commissioner Oxiris Barbot told the news outlet in a statement.

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The city found that about 9 percent of New Yorkers, or around 577,000 people, report being physically threatened or abused by police, while about 1.9 million, or 29 percent, say they have been stopped, frisked or questioned, according to BuzzFeed.

The department found that among that cross section of the population, rates of heart disease, drug abuse, diabetes and mental illness are all higher, according to the publication.

To address these issues, the department has launched a “criminal justice action kit” to be discussed with workers in nearly 200 primary care and family medicine practices in Manhattan, Brooklyn and the Bronx.

“You can help justice-involved patients get the care they need. It is important to recognize  this is a highly sensitive topic and patients may not want to immediately disclose their history,” a letter to practitioners included with the kit states. “Patients with criminal justice involvement may also have a history of trauma, so it is important to adopt a trauma-informed approach when providing care.”

The letter recommends that if patients disclose a history of interactions with the criminal justice system, practitioners use language that reassures patients the practitioner intends to provide care that reduces “the potential health impacts of justice involvement” as well as screening for chronic conditions and risks associated with such experiences.

Providers should also be equipped to connect patients with local behavioral health providers and community organizations aware of their specific social needs, according to the department.