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Meet Alisha

Volunteer of the Month March 201fo_vol_march15

Alisha has been a dedicated Main Jail visitor for 6 months. For her, she says the  best part about jail visiting is connecting people with their friends and family members and helping them maintain a relationship with their loved ones on the outside.

In her volunteer work, she has experienced assisting many clients who are so thankful for the work we do and express real appreciation of volunteers. For Alisha, her work in the jail translates into positive impacts on people’s lives.

Currently, Alisha is finishing her last semester of completing a Masters degree in Criminal Justice. Within the field, she is particularly interested in recidivism and the long-term impact of detention and incarceration on re-offending.

After graduation, she will be working for a pretrial diversion organization assisting with research, doing case management for clients, and Own Recognizance interviews.

Everyone here at Friends Outside is so happy for her new job and future – she will be missed!!

Grocery Shopping is Stressful!

Over the past few weeks we have learned a lot, but I have found that the challenge is implementing my newfound knowledge into my life! Going to the Grocery Store can cause so much stress.  It is especially hard when in independent housing.  Shopping on your own and bringing it all back to where you live on the bus is hard.  I often find myself juggling multiple heavy bags.  At the store often what is quick, easy, and inexpensive to make is not healthy.  I bought Bagel Bites and was astonished when I read the nutritional information, but I was hungry and ended up eating them anyways…  I learned in Group that stress, even grocery shopping stress can cause one to overeat and gain weight.  This is something neither your or I want!
I am working on ways to manage the stress of shopping.  I plan on listening to how I am feeling.  If things are too much for me, I can always walk away.  I plan my shopping list by groups such as putting all the fruits and vegetables in one place on the list so I am not walking circles in the store.  I make sure that I buy only what I can comfortably carry and have invested in sturdy reusable bags.  I also stick to my list, so that I do not buy unhealthy things (like Bagel Bites!).  My quick, inexpensive, and healthy go to snack is fruit.  I am currently working on identifying quick and healthy meal options that I will share with you in the future.

Knowing about health and wellness is not enough to be healthy and avoid chronic disease, you actually need to do the things that promote health and wellness in one’s life.  Health is a journey and it is not an overnight one.  It is ok to make mistakes as I have been, but you need learn from them and then get right back to your journey!

I wish you luck in your journey and remember if at first you do not succeed, try and try again!!

National Volunteer Week 2015

It’s our week to be thankful and celebrate volunteerism!

Join us at events in honor of National Volunteer Week happening April 12-18, 2015. Widely celebrated across the country, the week brings the opportunity to call national attention to the substantial civic impact that more than 60 million volunteers make in our local communities.

We invite residents of Santa Cruz County to join with us in thanking volunteers from across our community. We hope you will be inspired and encouraged to take a step towards action as well.

Schedule of Events

countysealVolunteer Initiative Program Volunteer Recognition – Tues. April 14 10AM- Join the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors and staff from our County Partnership Program VIP as they celebrate the outstanding volunteers who are providing service within County Departments. Last year 1,000 volunteers contributed nearly $2 Million in volunteer labor to expand and enhance the work of County Personnel. Activities will take place in the Board of Supervisors Chamber.


city of santa cruzCityServe Volunteer Recognition Celebration- Tues. April 14  2:00PM – Join Santa Cruz City Council and staff in celebration of volunteers from our Partnership Program CityServe. The recognition event will begin with a reception in the City Hall Courtyard at 2:00 PM followed by an award ceremony to highlight the best of the over 1,500 volunteers committed to making the city of Santa Cruz a better place to live.



logovectorfileVolunteer Recognition Party- Thurs. April 22 5:30-8PM @ the Volunteer Center- Each year during National Volunteer Week we take the opportunity to honor the individuals who dedicate themselves to one of our 18 programs. They are the backbone of our success and critical to our ability to serve our community. All program and community volunteers are invited to join us for mingling, awards, appetizers,  music, and raffle prizes. Call 831-427-5070 to RSVP.

How the Affordable Care Act Makes our Community Safer

fo_grad_sept13Today is the 5th Anniversary of the Affordable Care Act and in it’s honors many hours will be spent discussing the gains and pitfalls of this act.

At the same time a group of local volunteers with Friends Outside will quietly go about their work to implement the ACA with some of the most health vulnerable in our community in the hopes of lowering our community crime rate and corrections costs.

Everyday volunteers and staff from the Volunteer Center program Friends Outside are actively working to improve the lives of men and women who are currently incarcerated or trying to re-establish themselves in the community. They are on the front lines in our local jails and at community spaces helping these individuals devise a road-map for success  in order to reduce the rate of return to jail.

Friends Outside provides a range of in-custody and post release support services all in the interest of eliminating personal and community barriers that deter individuals from rebuilding their lives.   Last year these volunteers provided nearly 6,000 hours of client support and more than 1800 jail visits for 2,546 inmates, post release clients or their families.

In their daily work, they see first hand the complexity of issues that men and women within the correctional system are struggling with.

One of those primary struggles is health and wellness.

National statistics tell us that men and women coming through the correctional system have a higher prevalence for behavioral health disorders and chronic or infectious diseases than the general public. As many as 65% have a history of mental health challenges.

Locally, many former inmates lack health insurance or the financial means to purchase services such as preventative care visits, counseling, or needed medicines and without assistance from programs like Friends Outside many don’t know how to navigate the healthcare system to get their needs met, leaving them more vulnerable to coping strategies which ultimately land them back in jail.

That is until recently when California opened the door to free and subsidized healthcare through the provisions in the Affordable Care Act.  In 2014, California shifted Medi-Cal eligibility to be solely determined by income, allowing persons between 18 and 64 to qualify without any other determining factors. While Medi-Cal is still not available to those in custody they can hit the ground running with health care options by filling out the application before leaving jail.

Santa Cruz County Health Services has partnered with Friends Outside to ensure this crucial continuum of care step is taken and together they have set a goal of enrolling 1,200 individuals involved with the criminal justice system.  Friends Outside volunteers  have begun working with inmates who are within 30 days of release to complete their Medi-Cal applications. They additionally provide enrollment services for probationers and family members of those in the criminal justice system.

In order to meet the needs of those enrolling, volunteers meet with inmates one-on-one, offer informational classes at all of the jail facilities, and hold weekly office hours at the Probation Department.

Why should this matter to you as a community member?

Research from various states supports the finding that when individuals have access to affordable health care we see a decrease in admission to hospitals and emergency rooms and a reduction in the number of offenders returning to jail for new crimes.

At a rate of $85 a  day for a stay in our county jails, every effective action step we take towards reducing the number of inmates means we have the ability to spend tax dollars differently.

Learn More about Friends Outside

Want to learn more about the impacts of providing health care to inmates?

• Check out the briefing from the National Conference for State Legislatures
• Read the PBS New Hour Segment on Inmate Health Care and the ACA