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Federal Grant Will Fund PRCH's 'Recovery Finance' Project

November 10, 2022

Researchers from the Yale Department of Psychiatry’s Program for Recovery and Community Health (PRCH) have been awarded a $1.675 million grant by the National Institute On Minority Health And Health Disparities of the National Institutes of Health.

The grant will fund a four-year research project titled, "Recovery Finance: Financial Health and Mental Health after Incarceration."

The grant, awarded to Annie Harper, PhD, associate research scientist in psychiatry; Chyrell Bellamy, PhD, professor of psychiatry and director of PRCH, and colleagues from PRCH and the Yale School of Public Health, builds on their many years of research and practice in the areas of financial health and peer support for people with mental health challenges who have experienced incarceration.

The researchers will collaborate with partners across the New Haven region, including the Connecticut Association for Human Services (CAHS), the City of New Haven, Project More, The Connection, Connex Credit Union, and the Connecticut Mental Health Center (CMHC), as well as organizations such as the Filene Research Institute and the Justice Technology Association that are working at a national level to address the financial challenges of people who are justice-involved.

Those financial challenges can be overwhelming. People returning to the community after incarceration are often in debt from bills and other financial obligations unpaid during their time inside prison or jail, loans taken while in prison to pay for essentials, and money borrowed after release, often from already financially stressed social networks. Their credit may be severely damaged, due to unpaid debts or identity theft; people who are incarcerated face much higher rates of identity theft than others, according to research.

Many banks will not open accounts for people with criminal records, and people who had bank accounts before going to prison may have lost them due to insufficient funds and repeated overdrafts.

Excessive debt, bad credit, and banking access negatively impact health, both directly and indirectly, as they cause barriers to employment and housing, stress social networks, and contribute to feelings of exclusion, all of which are health determinants.

In addition, people who are structurally marginalized due to racism, poverty, and mental health stigma are more likely than others to have financial problems even if they are not justice-involved. The experience of incarceration worsens those problems, which, after release, layer onto other barriers to successful reentry.

Recovery Finance will explore ways to address these financial challenges. Using a Community Based Participatory Research (CBPR) approach, the project will work with its partners and other organizations working on related issues, including people with lived expertise, to refine and implement an intervention targeting community level determinants of financial well-being for people with mental health challenges who have been incarcerated.

The intervention will include integrating financial capability support (one-on-one coaching and access to financial tools and services, along with peer support) into existing services and training people who provide support and services to this population to understand their financial needs and take steps where possible to address them. It will also train bank and credit union staff to reduce discrimination and encourage the creation of products and services to meet the needs of the target population.

The project will also support collaborative community efforts working toward upstream policy and legal reforms to reduce the incidence of those financial challenges.

Submitted by Christopher Gardner on November 10, 2022