Medicaid and mental health
Low-income adults continue to sign up for Medicaid in Louisiana since the program was expanded on July 1. This bodes well for people suffering from mental illness, according to the Louisiana Department of Health. Improvements in mental health for the people of the state, in turn, can help reduce the state’s incarceration rate, which is the highest in the country. The Advocate makes this point in a recent editorial:
At the local level, collaboration with law enforcement and corrections is a way to treat mental health issues that too often result in arrests and crowded jails. In Lafayette, Baton Rouge and New Orleans, officials have been looking at better ways to deal with the mentally ill clogging the system; Medicaid expansion may make those initiatives more financially viable. After their release, ex-cons with mental health issues who meet the new Medicaid requirements will get access to needed medication or other treatments. Maybe they won’t end up arrested again.
Advocates push back against business group’s Orleans Parish jail recommendation
Health Secretary Rebekah Gee said that the state has a goal of “treating mental illness and addiction rather than incarcerating” those with these conditions in order to advance public health. In a recent guest column for The Advocate, the chair of the Business Council of New Orleans and the River Region called for a new 100 – 130 bed jail facility in Orleans Parish to house the mentally ill and other “special jail populations,” among other recommendations.
The importance of implementing this plan is twofold. First, safely and humanely housing mentally ill prisoners and other special populations requires a separate and appropriately outfitted facility. The current jail cannot effectively house these populations given its maximum capacity of 1,438 beds. Rather, a specialized facility that offers mental health, step-down and infirmary services would better meet the requirements of the Consent Judgment. We cannot achieve a constitutional jail if these populations are ignored.
This drew the ire of the Orleans Parish Prison Reform Coalition (OPPRC), a group working to limit the reach of jail facilities to the 1,438 bed jail approved by the City Council in 2011. In a guest column of his own, Don Everard of OPPRC responded:
We don’t need or want what the Business Council is pushing. What we do want is a small, safe and humane jail that houses only people who are a danger to society and can’t be effectively held in check by other, less restrictive and less expensive methods. We want an effective array of alternatives to incarceration that are accessible to people accused of crimes. We want restorative, rather than punitive, justice systems that actually repair harm, promote healing and transformation, and restore trust. We want effective re-entry programs; but more so, we want more and better community-based support programs that make it unlikely that a person ever commits a crime, gets arrested or goes to jail, such as mental health care, job training and opportunities, living wages, quality education, access to health care, etc. We want people who are accused of crimes to have their cases settled fairly and quickly. We want greater use of alternative sentencing and revised sentencing guidelines that promote shorter sentences for many crimes.
10 facts about Medicaid
The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities recently highlighted key facts and evidence on the importance of the Medicaid program and Medicaid expansion. CBPP pointed to increases in coverage for people with chronic conditions, the decrease in the uninsurance rate brought about by Medicaid expansion, the cost effectiveness of the program, and the savings reaped by states that expand.
Medicaid has improved access to care for millions, including those with chronic conditions. A landmark study of Oregon’s Medicaid program found that beneficiaries were 40 percent less likely to have suffered a decline in their health in the last six months than similar people without health insurance coverage. They were also likelier to use preventive care (such as cholesterol screenings), to have a regular clinic where they could receive primary care, and to receive a diagnosis of and treatment for depression and diabetes.
Equity an important aspect of new federal education law
The new federal education law, the Every Student Succeeds Act, is reshaping education policy throughout the country. It calls for evaluating schools on more than just test scores and empowers state and local leaders to develop evidence-based systems of accountability. Danielle Dreilinger, writing for Nola.com/The Times-Picayune, has more:
Louisiana will also have to identify and intervene in schools where traditionally disadvantaged groups lag behind their peers, according to the Education Trust. In addition, “states are required to ensure that students of color and students from low-income families are not taught at disproportionate rates by ineffective, inexperienced or out-of-field teachers,” said Takirra Winfield, director of strategic media initiatives at the U.S. Department of Education.
Louisiana State Superintendent of Education, John White, just wrapped up a series of community meetings to receive input on implementation of the new law.
Number of the Day
2,600,000 – Number of Americans lifted out of poverty by Medicaid in 2010. (Source: Center on Budget and Policy Priorities)