Prisoner Health is Community Health: The NM Peer Education Project
The New Mexico Peer Education Project (NM PEP) is a collaboration with the New Mexico Corrections Department and the New Mexico Department of Health. PEP was developed by Project ECHO thru the University of New Mexico's Department of Internal Medicine, and was adapted from Wall Talk, a successful prison-based peer education program focusing on HIV in the Texas prisons. The PEP Pilot Program was launched in July 2009.
PEP programs for the general prison population include 10-hour peer educator led health classes and mandatory 1½-hour training for all incoming male inmates on hepatitis C and hand-washing.
Forty percent of incarcerated people in New Mexico test positive for hepatitis C. PEP seeks to train peer educations, with the goals to increase knowledge of key health issues, increase general health literacy, reduce risky behaviors, and increase job readiness in peer educators upon release.
PEP Peer Educator training
Peer Educators are inmates who have successfully completed an intensive 40-hour training on specific health topics and facilitation skills. These inmates then conduct interactive health education workshops for their peers.
PEP Peer Educator training includes:
- 40-hour intensive training led by Project ECHO staff;
- Monthly site visit with Project ECHO staff to increase skills and knowledge;
- 1½-hour monthly video-conferences;
- Continuing education credits from UNM/Project ECHO.
- Key Health Topics: Hepatitis C, Substance Use and Addiction, Sexually Transmitted Infections, HIV/AIDS, Staph/MRSA, Diabetes;
- Harm Reduction;
- Motivational Interviewing and Behavior Change;
- Exploration of health related behaviors and values;
- Skill building in public speaking and facilitation.
The Parking Lot is a tool specifically designed for peer educators to communicate with Project ECHO. Responses to unanswered questions during peer educator led training are sent to peer educators within one or two days.
NM PEP Peer Educators in the Community
What happens upon reentry? Project ECHO links Peer Educators to services, including HCV treatment, testing, etc. Project ECHO provides a letter of support for peer educators and assists with job search. Project ECHO is compiling a directory of volunteer opportunities. Peer Educators may take additional CHW training thru Project ECHO or elsewhere. Peer Educators also educate family and friends.