Letter to the Editor | Lack of insurance boosts recidivism rates

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By Halie Reyes

Oftentimes, we do not consider the individuals transitioning from incarceration to their communities when discussing healthcare policy reform.

The American Psychological Association found that “64% of jail inmates, 54% of state prisoners and 45% of federal prisoners” have mental health disorders, many of which also experience co-occurring substance-use disorders. When left untreated, these disorders lead to an increased risk of recidivism.

Fifty-four percent of formerly incarcerated individuals with severe mental illness, 66% with substance abuse disorders and 68% with both issues will recidivate. Recidivism leads to economic and social costs for our communities in the form of increased criminal justice expenditures and diminished safety.

Lack of insurance is a significant barrier experienced by formerly incarcerated people seeking treatment for mental health and substance use disorders. When incarcerated, most people’s health insurance, whether public or private, is terminated. Once released, 80% of formerly incarcerated individuals are uninsured and therefore are unable to seek or continue treatment that would reduce behaviors linked to recidivism.

By reforming policy to suspend rather than terminate health insurance upon incarceration, these individuals can continue treatment without facing gaps once released. In addition, allowing people who lost insurance during incarceration to apply for Medicaid before release will provide individuals with limited economic resources consistent treatment and a positive transition into their communities. By taking these initial steps, we can reduce the likelihood of recidivism in the formerly incarcerated population and better protect our communities.

 

Halie is a senior in Social Work.

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