Empowered Options is a pilot project aimed at decreasing unintended and substance-affected pregnancies among women released from New River Valley Regional Jail in Dublin, Virginia, through on-site education and clinical family planning services.
Several times each month, a health counselor teaches a class on sexual and reproductive health to a small group of incarcerated women. Everyone who takes the class receives an educational packet and referrals to community resources to help them after release. These include medical, mental health, and substance abuse treatment providers, food banks, social services providers, and reentry programs that facilitate successful reintegration into the community and reduce recidivism.
Most of the women served by the program suffer from substance use disorders. Most were using no birth control prior to incarceration, despite not wanting to become pregnant. The Empowered Options program enables women who do not wish to become pregnant or are not ready to become pregnant to avoid pregnancies until they can have healthy, intended ones.
Since its implementation in March of 2018, the program has provided education to over 400 women, testing for sexually transmitted infections to over 300, and prescription birth control to over 160. The feedback provided by the women served by the program has been almost uniformly positive.
Empowered Options is a New River Health District program that receives support from The Secular Society and Carilion Clinic Community Health & Outreach.