SSM Health St. Clare Hospital, Baraboo, 2021 Community Benefit

Education as a Path Out of the Criminal Justice System and to Improved Health

At SSM Health’s St. Clare’s Hospital-Baraboo, staff partnered with academic experts and county agencies to design and fund an educational training program for individuals engaged in Sauk County’s criminal justice system. The intent was to create a pathway out of the criminal justice system and into employment which would result in improved access to health care and a better quality of life for the individuals and their families.  
When designing the program, the partners knew that a significant percentage of incarcerated individuals lacked high school diplomas and the Sheriff’s Department confirmed that many were seeking educational training and credentials. In late 2019, SSM Health formalized an agreement with the health department, created an Education Navigator position and transferred funds to start the project. A Navigator with a background in alternative adult education was hired in January 2020.  
In the project’s first 18 months, the Navigator provided services, training and incentives in over 150 sessions. By July of 2021, individuals had passed 27 modules and the program graduated its first student with a General Education Development (GED) degree. Of the program, one participant wrote, “The Sauk County GED Program has helped me improve my mood for better and have a positive impact on my home life. Being in the program has changed my goals in a good way. I do think it is important to continue the program because it benefits a lot of people who otherwise couldn’t obtain their GED.”