Montrose Counseling Center Prison Liaison Francis Bueno gets a little misty-eyed when she talks about the services she provides. Bueno is MCC’s August Employee of the Month. Since 1996, Bueno has been helping people in the prison system prepare to access HIV services after their release. “I think the most fundamental thing we do is treat them with dignity,” she says.
She reaches into a stash of underwear and socks that she has on hand for the ones who are released from Pam Lychner State Jail. “These folks are cut loose and told they can’t even take their dingy gray underwear with them, yet they are supposed to figure out how to rejoin society?” she asks, knowing they have a tough road ahead.
Bueno usually meets with the inmates in the jails and prisons prior to their release so they learn how to help themselves get their basic needs met. Most of her clients are HIV positive and have a dual diagnosis of chemical dependency. If they currently are behind bars, we can prove their residency and their income, so we can get them registered in the Centralized Patient Care Data Management System (CPCDMS). Registration is required for anyone who receives Ryan White Care Act funding, whether it’s for housing, transportation, medical care, prescriptions, or other necessities.
Bueno recalls a young man she helped several years ago, who is now sober and gainfully employed, “I remember he didn’t have an appointment but he knocked on my door and told me I had to go out into the parking lot with him. Once outside, he gestured at an old clunker of a car and beamed, ‘Ms. Francis, I don’t need bus tokens anymore!”