WASHINGTON DC — Legislation to improve addiction treatment in jails, inspired in-part by Greene County officials, will advance to the House floor.
The Energy and Commerce Committee approved May 17 an amended version of Congressman Mike Turner and Congressman Paul Tonko’s Medicaid Reentry Act, which will likely move to the House floor as part of a larger opioid epidemic bill package, Turner’s office said. The Medicaid Reentry Act aims to give inmates back their Medicaid benefits to start treatment 30 days prior to release.
If passed, Turner and Tonko’s legislation would require the Department of Health and Human Services to release guidance within one year, based on recommendations by a group of interested stakeholders, on how to improve substance abuse treatment for people being released from incarceration, facilitating their transition back into society.
Turner has 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, his office reported.
“In 2015, I toured Greene County Jail and became aware that individuals lose Medicaid eligibility upon incarceration and therefore become unable to receive substance treatment during their time in jail. When we are able to identify individuals as addicted, we need to be able to get them the care they need while we have custody of them. I’ve since pushed for legislation to remedy this gap in access to treatment,” Turner said.
Turner visited the jail again May 3, where he spoke with Sheriff Gene Fischer and the county commissioners about the legislation and how it would impact the community.
“Whenever an inmate comes in and that’s [Medicaid] 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?”
Congress is moving the initiative forward.
“Today’s advancement of the bipartisan Medicaid Reentry Act is a huge step towards getting these individuals access to the treatment they need,” Turner said.
Tonko recently spoke during the committee hearing.
“This smart-on-crime legislation will plant the seeds for meaningful change and will help to give individuals reentering society a fighting chance to live a healthier, drug-free life,” he said.
Contact Anna Bolton at 937-502-4498 or follow @annadbolton on Facebook.