1.2 million people with mental illness are incarcerated each year.
Studies show that in states with less access to mental health treatment, there are also higher rates of incarceration. There is a strong positive correlation between lack of available mental health care and higher incarceration rates.
Consumer Health Coalition (CHC), in partnership with Allegheny County Department of Human Services, launched our Jail Re-entry project in November 2014 to reduce instances of inmates re-entering society without access to medications, treatment programs, or health care.
CHC Health Care Navigators work in the jail to assist inmates with the application process for health coverage so they have active health insurance upon their release from the jail. Our goal is for inmates with substance use disorders, mental illness, and chronic health conditions to have uninterrupted health care access and continuity of coverage.
In an effort to reduce recidivism, this project helps ensure that inmates have health insurance right away when released from incarceration.
People moving out of the criminal justice system face many social challenges. They are more likely to experience unstable housing, low incomes, homelessness, and chronic illnesses. They are also more likely to be uninsured, according to studies.
Our project’s unique relationship with the Department of Human Services enables inmates to access their health coverage beginning the same day of their release. We want to ensure these individuals have health insurance so they don’t end up in the hospital or emergency room due to lack of medication. This also ensures they have access to treatment programs and they re-enter society with greater stability.
We’re working to provide the resources people need to stay healthy upon re-entry.
In 2015, we completed over 274 Medical Assistance applications for inmates upon their release. 264 of those were approved for health coverage. In 2016, we doubled the previous year’s numbers and expanded our Health Care Navigator staff in the Allegheny County Jail.
We currently focus on assisting those with substance use disorders, mental illness, and chronic health conditions upon re-entry. Our goal moving forward is to reach every inmate being released from the Allegheny County Jail to make sure everyone has applied for health coverage upon discharge.