On the anniversary of the COVID-19 shutdown, President Biden in his speech noted COVID-19 has had a significant impact on everyone’s lives and that “while it was different for everyone, we all lost something.” We must acknowledge that Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) have larger losses, in comparison to Whites. The losses that BIPOC, and especially Latinos, have experienced during COVID-19 have important implications for stress, and consequently mental health outcomes. We must recognize the major stressors Latino families are facing under COVID-19 so that we can address the health needs of this group as we move forward.
As a team, we’re all involved in work with criminal justice populations. We’ve been particularly interested in how we can provide better access to substance use and mental health treatment among folks who are under community supervision, so people who are on probation or parole.
We proposed to do a pilot study integrating telehealth counseling into a probation parole office setting. We have a lot of folks in Arkansas who live in very rural communities. They have poor access to behavioral health treatment, yet they’re under community supervision. They’re mandated to come in and interact with their probation parole officer. Plus, if they’re required to attend treatment, they’ll have to find a way to actually show up. We figured if we integrate all this, folks could go to their probation office and get more services so they wouldn’t have to show up a bunch of different times. We designed a telehealth intervention, six counseling sessions.
We started enrolling people in that, and then COVID hit. Our probation parole offices had to shut down. We were focusing on one area, one office, and now we’re taking a step back and saying, “Ok. Let’s talk to other area offices that serve rural areas.”
My team members are Pooja Tandon, a pediatrician and Cary Simmons, a landscape architect. Our project is about schoolyard conversions – to explore how green schoolyards can become community parks – and we’re working in the city of Tacoma, Washington. Cary and the Trust for Public Land (TPL), our community partner, has analyzed communities all around the Puget Sound area. They’ve found that underserved neighborhoods often have a dearth of parks, and that’s the situation in our study location.
Prisons and jails are unhealthy environments under normal circumstances. A pandemic makes them even moreso. With people living in tight quarters and limited access to soap, masks, hand sanitizer and other basic supplies, it is no surprise that we have seen the coronavirus ravage many prisons nationwide. Our team realized that people leaving these spaces needed clear information on how to transition back home during this pandemic.