July 15, 2016—The United Hospital Fund has awarded a $60,000 grant to the Legal Action Center (LAC) to produce two issue briefs on policies and practices that best engage and retain individuals involved in the criminal justice system in effective health care. The first brief will examine New York’s progress in providing Medicaid coverage to incarcerated individuals, and the second brief will analyze progress and issues around linkage to evidence-based health care services upon individuals’ reentry into the community.
People in the criminal justice system are seven times as likely as the general population to experience mental illness, substance use disorders, infectious disease, and chronic health conditions. Following release from prisons or jails, they experience disruptions in medical care and treatment that contribute to higher drug use rates, re-incarceration, and poor health outcomes, including a 12-fold increase in the risk of death in the first two weeks post-release. At every stage of the criminal justice system, lack of treatment can lead to higher recidivism rates, increased long-term costs, and permanent harm to individuals, families and communities.
According to Paul N. Samuels, Director and President of LAC, the briefs will help shape a guide that will be the first of its kind. It will draw on LAC’s experience working with New York State agencies to enroll justice-involved individuals in Medicaid and connect them to coordinated care. Since LAC began working on this initiative in 2013, over 11,000 individuals in New York’s criminal justice system have been enrolled in Medicaid. An estimated 400 people leaving state prisons are now gaining Medicaid coverage each month, and over 2,000 individuals in the criminal justice system have been linked to Health Homes. The state has also budgeted $6 million to pay for Medicaid enrollers and preliminary care coordination inside prisons.
United Hospital Fund’s generous grant will allow LAC to detail New York State’s experience and make recommendations for further project progress and replication. LAC Policy Director Sebastian Solomon states, “We are committed to securing access to effective healthcare for individuals at all stages of the criminal justice system. With UHF support, we will be able to disseminate information that will help ensure people have access to care from pre-arrest to post-incarceration.”
Informed by LAC’s more than 40 years of experience working at the intersection of the health and criminal justice systems, the guide will play a crucial role in transforming the focus of the criminal justice system from punishment to treatment for the large percentage of individuals whose incarceration is inextricably linked to chronic health conditions such as substance use and mental health issues.
“Ultimately, by sharing LAC’s expertise, we aim to improve countless lives and public safety,” said Samuels. “Our experience in connecting justice-involved individuals in New York State to the health care they need and deserve has given us great insight. We hope our report provides a model for transforming the criminal justice and health care systems nationwide.”
About the Legal Action Center
The Legal Action Center is the only non-profit law and policy organization in the United States whose sole mission is to fight discrimination against people with histories of addiction, HIV/AIDS, or criminal records, and to advocate for sound public policies in these areas.
About The United Hospital Fund
United Hospital Fund works to build a more effective health care system for every New Yorker. An independent, nonprofit organization, UHF analyzes public policy to inform decision-makers, finds common ground among diverse stakeholders, and develops and supports innovative programs that improve the quality, accessibility, affordability, and experience of patient care.