First Lady Frances Wolf stresses the need for mental health for Justice-Impacted Women

Pennsylvania

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — More than 80% of incarcerated women have experienced trauma in their lives. When their sentences end, the need for mental health assistance is crucial when re-entering the community.

“I think it’s important for all of us in the community at large to hear these conversations,” First Lady Frances Wolf said.

According to the Pennsylvania Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs, more than 50% of inmates have an untreated substance abuse disorder.

“So when you are using a substance in a way that impacts your ability to function normally as a human being you definitely got a substance abuse disorder,” Pa. Secretary Drug & Alcohol Program addiction crisis Jen Smith said.

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State leaders say incarceration can take a toll on women and their mental health but getting out of prison while not knowing where to work or live can cause stress that may lead to substance abuse.

“If you can’t get some of those boxes checked, if you feel like you’re failing, you can’t figure out where you and your children are going to be living for the next week that could absolutely be the one trigger for the reoccurrence of use,” Smith said.

However, there’s help.

Why Not Prosper is transitional housing for women that advocates for health care and their needs when dealing with trauma.

“We just making sure all of those things on that ground level first lady are met okay and that’s very, very important, no need to get them a job, no need that we go and try and get your kids right now, let’s get mom stable because at why not prosper we only deal with mom,” Founder of Why Not Prosper Rev. Dr. Michelle Simmons said.

Bethany Christian Services’ “Renew Program” guides recovering mothers with newborns. They say the biggest factor to help women in need is gaining their trust.

“They get to choose us we’re not a court-ordered service and I think that’s a unique aspect of our program because if you want someone to trust you, you can’t be there because you have to be there, you have to be there because you want to be there,” Jamie Minick with Bethany Christian Services said.

“There aren’t weak spots anymore or you’re working really hard not to have them,” First Lady Frances Wolf said.

Wolf says these conversations will help women that have been incarcerated by getting them support, treatment, and thriving when they re-enter the community.

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