A nonprofit care management program’s collaboration with a local jail and health system has resulted in helping inmates both regain health and their post-jail lives. The following is an example of how one former inmate found his way back to health and productive citizenship.

Dwight Rice, 45, now makes a good salary with benefits, working as a forklift operator at a manufacturing plant in Spartanburg, SC. He eats well, exercises regularly, and gives back to his community through volunteer work, including outreach in the Spartanburg County Detention Center.

But his life’s trajectory seemed to be heading in an entirely opposite direction a few years ago when he was incarcerated after he made some bad decisions, Rice says.

While in the detention center, Rice had severe pain and was taken to the ED, where he was diagnosed with acute appendicitis. An emergency operation removed his appendix, as well as a hernia. A week later, he needed a second surgery for an intestinal blockage.

While Rice was in jail, a care management team from AccessHealth Spartanburg visited him to talk about how he might continue his medication and rehabilitation once he was released to the community.

Rice was skeptical at first and asked what the catch was to their offer of accompanying him to doctors’ appointments. They convinced him there was no catch and they would provide these services at no charge. It was an offer too good to turn down, especially since Rice knew that he probably would not bother with follow-up appointments on his own. “I was the type of person who if I felt it was too complicated to figure out, I’d say, ‘I’m not going to deal with it,’” Rice says.

The care managers helped him apply for Medicaid, address his sleep apnea issue, and directed him to medical help for his lung blood clots.

“They went above and beyond their duties,” Rice says. “They helped me organize my job resume and send off for my high school diploma.”

Whatever it took to motivate Rice to improve his health, they did. “So they basically became my family, really holding my hands going through a lot of things.”

As a result, Rice began to take as much interest in his health as they were taking in him. He started going to a gym and exercised regularly. Then he began to watch what he ate, meeting with a nutritionist.

“It was like it gave me motivation to be motivated,” Rice says.

Soon, Rice’s relationship with his family improved. He felt well enough to find a job and to volunteer at homeless shelters, a faith home, and to visit the jail to motivate other people to seek help and improve their health and their lives.

“I tell them, ‘I am here to show you and tell you that there’s life beyond this. You can get off that merry-go-round,’” Rice says.