Prism Health North Texas has been providing health and educational resources to the North Texas community since the 80s, at the height of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Through this nonprofit’s Free World Bound program, they work to help former inmates readjust to life outside of prison. The program works with HIV-positive prisoners to provide them with medical care, education, and prevention.
Free World Bound was originally only in Dallas and Tarrant County. Recently, it has expanded into a statewide program that benefits 30 prisons over the last twenty years.
The senior director of community outreach for PHNTX, Daron Kirven, told the Dallas Observer that the organization works to help former inmates understand where to find medical resources, get housing, and more.
“We started a six-session intervention [in which] we meet with the individuals twice before they get released back into the community,” Kirven explained. “So being able to build a rapport and build trust within that person encourages that person to follow through for their other appointments when they get out. And once they get out, the worker that met with them while they were in prison is the worker that they will be working with once they get released.”
The program started with two employees and was funded by a $150,000 grant from the Texas Department of State Health Services. According to Kirven, last month, they received two grants equaling around $1.5 million from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
While Free World Bound helps with HIV prevention and treatment, it also provides STIs testing and behavioral health services. Those reentering society can be helped with emergency financial assistance, housing, and transportation.
One of the project managers, Alison Boyd, told the Dallas Observer, “I think a lot of people don’t realize the things people have to go through once they’re released. And when you’re dealing with chronic illness, on top of that, it can be really difficult. I’ve learned how important these services are to people when they’re dealing with so many different things that they’re trying to accomplish and also obligated to comply with the criminal justice system after they’re released. Working with this program opened my eyes to all of that.”
There are other programs available to prison inmates online, but not all individuals Free World Bound serves understand how to navigate the digital world.
According to the Dallas Observer, many of them don’t know how to find specific websites, and if they can find them, they struggle to use them. Those living with HIV or AIDS face even more challenges when finding educational and medical resources.
“It’s our job to help them navigate the system and the free world,” another Free World Bound project manager, Nadia Mitchell, said. “And it’s not always easy. The biggest thing I’ve learned is that there are a plethora of challenges that we have to figure out how to help them with, so we can help the whole person and not just the HIV aspect of it all.”