Sustainable Disease Risk Reduction Strategies for CJ Systems (DRR-2)

Well established and consistent use of HIV/HBV/HCV risk reduction prevention/intervention programs with continuity of care do not exist in most criminal justice treatment systems because of lack of policy development and integration between inTEXT Box--DRR-2 Proj Infostitution and community-based corrections, health, and social service agencies. Risk reduction interventions targeting re-entry are crucial because of the likelihood for risk behaviors to increase upon return to the community. Risk reduction approaches for community corrections populations are needed that have the capability of addressing motivational, social, and cognitive deficits.

The first phase of this continuation project (DRR-1) developed and tested an in-prison, highly interactive group-based curriculum, titled WaySafe, that was designed to help offenders make better decisions regarding health risk behaviors after release back to the community. The current project is adapting the innovative WaySafe intervention for use with community-corrections populations. The adapted intervention, StaySafe, includes twelve 10-15 minute self-administered sessions based on evidence-based cognitive principles designed to improve decision-making skills regarding health risk behaviors during the critical first several months under community supervision.

StaySafe will be administered to probationers newly released from residential or prison-based substance abuse treatment during the brief time they are waiting for their regularly scheduled appointments with their probation officer (PO). It utilizes tablet computers that provide an easy to use and interactive interface for probationers to work through an evidence-based, decision-making schema. An advantage of this approach is that it can be administered to probationers with minimal time commitment by staff and that it utilizes probationer down time when they are waiting for appointments. This intervention will be implemented in the probation departments of several large counties in Texas. Participating probationers will be randomly assigned to an experimental (Stay Safe) or control (standard operating procedure; SOP) arm. All participating probationers will be asked to complete measures at baseline and at 6 and 12 months.

During the first year of the project, we have adapted ideas from the group-based WaySafe curriculum and a decision-making schema, WORK-IT, to develop StaySafe, a self-administered approach for probationers utilizing an interactive, tablet computer-based interface. Adaptation has included interviews and focus groups with probationers and key probation department officials for input in the design of the materials and logistics for the project. Three different templates for StaySafe, to be used across twelve sessions, have been developed and are currently being tested and finalized. Our ultimate goal for StaySafe is to have a sustainable product for probation departments that can be administered with minimal staff training and low burden on probation officers, that is easy to use by probationers, requires minimal maintenance, and is free to probation departments other than the cost of providing touch screen computers.

Selected Presentations

Lehman, W. E. K., Pankow, J., Gray, J., & Rowan, G. A. (2015, March). StaySafe: An app to help probationers make better decisions on health risk behaviors. Poster presentation at the Academic and Health Policy Conference on Correctional Health, Boston, MA.

Gray, J. S., Pankow, J., Lehman, W. E. K., Rowan, G. A., & Knight, K. (2014, October). “There’s an app for that”: A novel tool to help community correction populations learn strategies to decrease HIV risk behaviors after release. Presented at the Addiction
Health Services Research Conference, Boston, MA.

Lehman, W. E. K., Pankow, J., Knight, K., Rowan, G. A., & Gray, J. S. (2014, October). Staying safe in the community: Adaptation of WaySafe for helping probationers make better decisions about their health risks. Presented at the Addiction Health Services Research Conference, Boston, MA.