Criminal justice issues among individuals with mental health and substance use conditions is a growing problem. After the wide deinstitutionalization of state hospitals, jails and prisons have seen an increase in the number and percentage of individuals with mental health and substance use conditions who come through their doors. MHA is dedicated to addressing the many issues states, communities, and criminal justice systems in order to reduce the number of individuals who must needlessly suffer by rotating in and out of jails and prisons.
Benefits for Prisoners with Mental Illness
Despite no federal law mandating Medicaid termination for prisoners, ninety percent of states have implemented policies that withdraw inmates’ enrollment upon incarceration.
This leaves a mentally ill and vulnerable population uninsured during the months following release. It is a time period during which former inmates are vulnerable to increased risk of medical problems and even death.
It is of critical importance that when former inmates return to the community, they should become immediately eligible for Medicaid.
With the expansion of Medicaid under federal healthcare reform starting on January 1, 2014, all parolees should be covered with private insurance or Medicaid.
The main features of healthcare reform include increased enrollment in health care plans and an influx of new federal funds to enroll all indigent adults in Medicaid, all of whom will have full parity for mental health and substance abuse.
But challenges will remain through 2013 to fund mental health programs for parolees and former inmates.
In nearly every state, many communities face overcrowding of their jails and prisons. They also face court orders to reduce overcrowding and must resort to releasing inmates before their sentences are completed.
The courts have also ordered jurisdictions such as California to improve the quality of mental health care of their inmates. California, for instance, is currently in the process of the early release of 36,000 to 45,000 inmates into the community during the next two years.