California has agreed to improve health care for newly released disabled inmates, including through a series of measures that advocates say will help nearly everyone trying to transition from incarceration.
Lawyers representing the inmates say proper care during prison transition has long been lacking and this can lead to homelessness. A recent study found that 1 in 5 homeless Californians came from an institution such as prison or jail.
The state agreed in June to release inmates with a 60-day supply of their prescription drugs, up from the previous 30-day requirement, and promised to replace lost medical equipment within the first month of an inmate’s release from prison. . Officials will also file applications for Medi-Cal, California’s version of Medicaid, on your behalf at least 90 days before you are discharged.
The settlement will benefit at least 11,000 parolees who have physical, developmental or mental health disabilities, or nearly a third of the state’s 36,000 parolees, attorneys for the inmates estimated. But many of the provisions will help get most inmates released, even those without a qualifying disability.
The improvements “should help close the revolving door between homelessness and incarceration that prevents too many people with disabilities from getting parole and reintegrating into the community,” said attorney Ben Bien-Kahn, one of the lead negotiators. on behalf of the inmates.
California corrections officials declined to comment.
The June settlement is the latest in a nearly 30-year class action lawsuit brought on behalf of inmates and probationers who have trouble seeing or hearing, or have mobility, learning, mental or kidney disabilities. A federal judge found in 1996 that the state violated the Americans with Disabilities Act in its treatment of inmates and parolees.
Seven years ago, lawyers lobbied the state to do a better job of planning the release of inmates with disabilities. They sent a demand letter to state officials two years ago that ultimately led to the agreement to change the state’s parole process for the disabled.
By moving to providing a 60-day supply of prescription drugs, the state promises to double the amount of drugs it previously provided to inmates upon release, which should be enough to cover parolees until their coverage expires. of health enters into force. A federal trustee who controls the state prison medical system had made that change in February 2022, after earlier negotiations with inmates’ attorneys, and it is now written into parole policy.
The state agreed to release inmates with proper medical equipment, such as canes, wheelchairs and walkers, and promised to replace lost or damaged equipment within the first month free of charge.
And, typically, the state will require inmates’ applications for Medi-Cal, Social Security and veterans’ benefits to be submitted at least 90 days prior to release, making delays less likely.
“Most parolees and parolees are going to end up benefiting from this,” Bien-Kahn said.
About 95% of parolees are eligible for Medi-Cal. According to a recent state report, approximately 17% of Medi-Cal applications and 70% of Social Security applications were still pending when inmates were released, leaving them, at least temporarily, without health insurance or income.
“The transition from prison to parole is fraught with danger for all parolees, but especially those with disabilities,” the lawyers’ letter said, advocating for better care.
Among the examples, he said a former inmate was released without his wheelchair, walker and cane, and without help applying for his Social Security or Medi-Cal benefits. He was left “at extreme risk of homelessness” after he had to wait several months after his release for coverage to begin receiving hospital care for a neurological condition.
And Bien-Kahn said in an email that lawyers learned in June of a paraplegic with disability-related incontinence who was left homeless after being released without planning after more than four decades in prison.
Lawyers said both men were told there was no suitable transitional housing available for them, another area addressed in the agreement. The demand letter cited a study that found that “being released from homelessness or substandard housing puts ex-offenders at almost immediate risk of failure.”
To help address that, officials agreed to assess each parolee’s disability, medical and mental health needs, information that will be used to place them in transitional housing and provide services in the community. And state-funded transitional housing programs won’t be able to turn away people on parole because of a disability.
This article was produced by KFF Health Newswhat publishes California Health Linean editorially independent service of the California Health Care Foundation.
KFF Health News is a national newsroom that produces detailed journalism on health issues and is one of the main operating programs of KFF: an independent source of research, polling and health policy journalism. Learn more about KFF.
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