NYAPRS Note: The data just below makes very clear how crucial an advance it will be for us to be able to re-start Medicaid benefits and begin the discharge planning process a month before prison/jail release here in New York. We are eagerly hoping for and awaiting prompt approval from CMS to start this lifesaving initiative.
Cuomo Wants Prisoners to Have Medicaid Upon Release
• Former inmates are 129 times more likely to die of an overdose during the two weeks following their release than other state residents, according to information released by the governor's office.
• Inmates being released from prison often face delays in getting medical and behavioral health care because they lack insurance upon release and because of wait times for appointments, especially for mental health and substance abuse treatment.
• Former inmates are at far higher risk of hospitalization or death in the weeks following release
By Amy Neff Roth Utica Observer-Dispatch May 17, 2016
When Owen Kemp, 19, got out of jail in October 2013, he wanted to go on the drug Suboxone to help overcome his craving for heroin.
But he couldn’t call the doctor to set up an appointment from prison and his family couldn’t make an appointment for him.
Kemp, who was staying with his grandparents in North Utica, died of an overdose two weeks later, before he was able to get an appointment in a substance abuse treatment program. He had ordered the heroin online and had it delivered to his grandparents’ neighborhood, said his grandmother Deborah Humphrey.
“We didn’t know enough to know how vulnerable he was when he got out of jail and came to our house,” Humphrey said. “We thought he was getting away from all the contacts, all the people (who encouraged his drug use).”
Kemp’s death devastated his family, who remember him as a talented artist and loving grandson, son and brother. But his tragic death contributes to an all-too-common statistic. Former inmates are 129 times more likely to die of an overdose during the two weeks following their release than other state residents, according to information released by the governor’s office.
The New York State Department of Health has asked the federal government for a waiver to let the state extend Medicaid coverage to inmates with behavioral health or medical conditions before their release. The program, which would be the first in the nation, also would help to connect these inmates with services outside of prison to smooth their transition back into society.
Continuity of care isn’t just an issue for inmates with substance abuse issues:
• One in 70 former inmates is hospitalized within a week of release.
• One in 12 former inmates is hospitalized within 90 days of release.
• And a Washington state study found that former prisoners are 12.7 times more likely to die than other state residents during the first two weeks following their release.
“We know that many people leaving our jails and prisons have serious mental health and substance abuse problems,” said Gov. Andrew Cuomo in a release. “It makes little sense to send them back into the community with our fingers crossed that they will be able to find the help they need. This initiative bridges the gap, providing essential transitional health services while also ensuring a smooth re-entry period and increasing public safety in communities statewide.”
For Kemp, Medicaid coverage wasn’t the big problem, but having a post-incarceration care plan with an appointment just after his release would have been great, Humphrey said.
“I personally think that would have saved his life,” she said.
Getting former inmates treatment as smoothly and quickly as possible is critical, said Judith Reilly, services director for the Center for Family Life and Recovery.
“They’re already coming out with many unknowns: where they’ll be living, what they’ll be doing, connection with family and friends,” she said.
“Your access is only as good as your insurance or your Medicaid, etc., so that really is very important to set a person up for success,” Reilly said. “And it’s not only for that person, but if this is a dad or a mom, imagine what it’s doing for their family as well. It doesn’t only affect that individual, but also the entire family system.”
Nick Turner, president of the Vera Institute for Justice, called the proposal long overdue.
“It will provide essential funding for improving the health of people leaving correctional facilities and ensuring that they receive the care and services that they need when they return to their communities,” he said in a release. “If approved, New York’s leadership will be viewed as a historical policy change for advancing health equity.”