State Prison Partnerships Can Improve Public Health and Safety


By Maria Schiff and Stephen Fehr

Nearly all people in prison eventually leave, many of them with chronic diseases or behavioral conditions that may affect public health and safety in the communities where they will live. In a positive trend, corrections departments are partnering with health care agencies in some states to make it possible for offenders’ conditions to be treated when they re-enter the community.

Officials say the collaborations – in states such as Connecticut, Iowa, Missouri and Ohio— are promising because they can improve public health and safety while providing states with a better return on the money spent on treating offenders while they are in prison. Departments of correction collectively spent $8.1 billion on prison health care in fiscal 2015.

In Ohio, for example, the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction partners with the state’s Medicaid agency to assist eligible offenders in applying for and enrolling in the federal-state health program and then selecting a Medicaid-managed plan 90 days before their release. Enrollees who have significant health risks—such as hepatitis C,  HIV,  pregnancy, a serious mental illness, or a substance use disorder—receive additional care management services, including reviews of their medical histories and  a pre-release transition plan.

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