Stories of Unity
A Unique Model of Connected Care in the DC Jails
Each year, more than 8,000 people enter the DC jail system. It is estimated that more than 50% of all prisoners suffer from serious mental health issues. Without treatment, these problems continue after release and are often the cause of re-arrest. As the primary provider of all health services to the DC jail system, Unity Health Care provides needed mental and physical health services both during and after incarceration, as well as social services to help adjust to life after jail. This continued, total care offers a pathway out of the all too common recurring cycle of incarceration.
About 8 years ago, while incarcerated for drug-related crimes in the DC Jail system, David was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and depression. His Unity Heath Care provider prescribed medications and enrolled him in group therapy, all while still in jail. After leaving jail, David was able to continue working with his medical team through the district-wide system of Unity Health Centers. As his mental health began to improve, so did David’s outlook on life. He went to Community College and was awarded an Associate’s degree. Motivated by his education, he continued school to complete his Bachelor’s degree and studied International Business in Europe. Now he has begun a new life dedicated to helping others.
In His Own Words
“Unity Health Care inspired me to volunteer with an organization that assists at risk youth and ex-offenders. Today my return trips to jail are not for arrests; but to deliver a message of hope to others who are dealing with mental health issues. All of this was possible through the mental health services that Unity provided me and continues to provide in the DC Jails."
Our Commitment to Serve Those Most in Need
Each night, nearly 7,000 people are homeless in our nation’s capital. Many have debilitating medical or mental health issues that prevent them from participating in everyday life. Without treatment, these problems often get worse and the prospect of getting better – of having a home – gets farther away. With a proud history of providing whole health care to the homeless population of DC, Unity Health Care runs 10 onsite health clinics directly within the city’s homeless shelters. Through these clinics, Unity serves the most vulnerable residents and follows through on its mission to promote healthier communities through compassion and comprehensive health and human services, regardless of ability to pay.
For the last 8 years Joe, a veteran, lived behind the Exxon station on 4th and Pennsylvania Ave SE. A friendly guy, the gas station employees allowed him to stay there. Neighbors in the Capitol Hill neighborhood would feed him and bring him blankets and other necessities.
He was too debilitated from alcoholism and severe arthritis to walk more than a few feet to the gas station bathroom. So, like this, he lived his life on the street. Joe is a Unity Health Care Homeless Services patient. Sometimes, when his nurse practitioner would visit him, he would be sitting or lying on the ground near the garbage bins of the gas station.
Often, during these visits, she pleaded with him to go with her to the nearby Unity Health Center, where social workers could help him get medical insurance he needed and doctors could give him the care he deserved. But the thought of getting to the center, just one mile from where he slept, might as well have been the moon, it seemed that far away to him. One day, as the winter cold approached, he finally agreed to go. Now after receiving treatment and staying sober for several months, Joe is on his way to recovery.
In His Provider’s Words
“As he sat in the passenger seat of my family’s car, he told me that he was so excited to sleep in a bed. He told me that he had grown up near Eastern Market with a mom and dad and sibling. His father was an alcoholic who had left the family when he was only a child. He lamented that he had become like his father…Because of Unity, Joe got help, received housing and counseling, and is learning to be part of a community again.”
Families are the Heart of Our Caring
Taking care of different generations within one family presents some challenges - different ages need different care. But it also provides an opportunity—At Unity Health Care, we’re able to serve our patients throughout their entire lives.
And serve their children.
And their children’s children.
This continuity of care means our doctors have a more in-depth understanding of the issues our patients experience in their daily lives– their relationships, support systems, and home life – and that translates into happier, healthier communities.
Emmeline’s first visit to Unity Health Care was when she was just 12-years-old and she met Dr. Rona Schwartz, medical director and family medicine doctor at the Columbia Road Health Center. As she grew up, Dr. Schwartz helped her deal with her asthma, guided her through puberty, and offered general care when she was sick. Today, 15 years after first walking through those doors, Emmeline is still being treated by Dr. Schwartz, and she also brings all three of her children for care. “My youngest daughter had a lot of health problems and Dr. Schwartz was always there for us and on top of things to make sure she was ok.” Her other children have received care for everything from an allergic reaction to a sprained ankle to just symptoms associated with the flu. As a busy mom— Emmeline goes to school, works, and is training to become an EMS—she appreciates that Dr. Schwartz knows her and her family so well, and can provide the kind of care they need.
Because of Unity Health Care, Emmeline and her family stay healthy.
In Her Own Word
“Dr. Schwartz plays such an important part for my family. She’s always there for us, even if she’s busy and it means staying late, she’ll always make sure my kids are ok.”