XENIA — Congress is taking action on an issue first brought to Congressman Mike Turner’s attention by Greene County officials regarding addiction treatment in jails.
“With the sheriff and the county commissioners I toured the local jail and they were telling me that they get people in the jail who are addicted to opioids, they dry out when they’re here, but there’s no treatment options — they return back to the community, they turn back to addictive behavior,” Turner said May 3 in front of the Greene County Jail.
Turner said when individuals who are Medicaid-eligible become incarcerated, they lose access to Medicaid, which can fund addiction treatment.
“When they return back to the community, their Medicaid benefits are restored; unfortunately they return back into the culture they came from, and frequently back to addition,” the congressman continued.
Turner’s office said transitioning individuals are among the most vulnerable to opioid overdose. Studies show individuals leaving correctional settings are as much as 129 times more likely to die of an overdose in the first two weeks post-release compared to the general population.
The TREAT (The Reforming and Expanding Access to Treatment) Act, reintroduced in February 2017, would allow inmates with addiction issues to access Medicaid benefits.
Since then, another step forward has been made in the effort. The legislation was recently recommended in The President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis. Congress then passed a parallel recommendation out of the Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee.
If it moves forward, the change would allow an inmate to have access to Medicaid benefits for the purpose of starting treatment 30 days prior to his or her release.
“That could be a bridge then to the time when they’re out,” Turner said. “Then they can continue that treatment with judicial oversight that ensures that they’re maintaining the treatment.”
Sheriff Gene Fischer and Commissioner Bob Glaser said the change would impact the county on cost savings.
“Whenever an inmate comes in and that’s taken away from them, the citizens of Greene County end up picking up the tab for all medical expenses,” Fischer said. “We’ve always thought that that’s wrong. If they’re Medicaid-eligible, when they come in why do we take it away?”
Maj. Kirk Keller, who runs the jail, said this step is a great start to alleviating issues stemming from the opioid epidemic.
“Not only do we have the needs of the inmates, but we have more and more pregnant females coming in and so there are the needs of the unborn as they’re in here with their parent going through addictions. So we need to be able to look after those needs well,” Keller said.
Contact Anna Bolton at 937-502-4498 or follow @annadbolton on Facebook.