Three out of every 4 children with parents ages 18 to 24 live in poverty in Louisiana. Younger parents typically have fewer savings and lower levels of education, which creates barriers to success and opportunity for their families. They have a harder time accessing helpful tax credits, securing housing and putting meals on the table – stressors that can result in cognitive and behavioral issues later in a child’s life. A new policy report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, highlights not only of the obstacles young parents face but the measures states can take to promote opportunity for young parents and their families:
Effective policies and practices reduce these barriers and can help create a better future for both children and parents. For example, evidence shows that home-visiting programs can prevent rapid repeat pregnancies for young parents and improve developmental outcomes for their children. Parents who participate in Early Head Start were more likely to be employed and involved in education and less likely to use physical punishment or have a second birth at a young age. Their children had better cognitive and social development and fewer behavioral problems. While more research is needed to identify what works to improve outcomes for young parents and children together, programs that draw on these individual evidence-based approaches have shown promising results.
Medicaid is integral to opioid treatment
Medicaid is an invaluable tool for fighting opioid addiction. New federal legislation will allow to further utilize Medicaid as a tool to fight addiction, but there are several actions states can take to increase access to treatment for substance use disorders (SUDs). Hannah Katch of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities:
By itself, having an SUD isn’t considered a disabling condition so, before the Affordable Care Act (ACA), low-income adults with SUDs didn’t qualify for Medicaid unless they also had a serious mental or physical health condition. Now, in states that adopt the ACA’s Medicaid expansion, adults with incomes below 138 percent of the poverty line can enroll regardless of disability. That has enabled millions of people with behavioral health conditions, including opioid disorders, to gain health coverage.
Louisiana is ahead of the game, having expanded Medicaid coverage to include low-income adults, but there’s more to be done:
Nearly 90 percent of people who needed SUD treatment in 2014 didn’t receive it. State Medicaid agencies can improve access to SUD treatment services such as medication assisted treatment (MAT), which combines medication with therapy. States should eliminate unnecessary barriers to getting MAT and other needed services, such as requiring prior authorization from the state or Medicaid managed care plan.
Criminal justice reform is working
Louisiana is no longer the nation’s – and the world’s – prison capital, thanks to the historic criminal justice reforms of 2017 that passed the Legislature with bipartisan support. But some district attorneys remain critical of the reforms, portraying them as soft-on-crime measures that have not improved public safety. St. Charles Parish District Attorney Joel Chaisson II, writing for Nola.com/The Times-Picayune, sets the record straight:
As a district attorney who is committed to ensuring public safety by incarcerating violent criminals, I can attest that these reforms in no way impact my ability to achieve that goal in those cases requiring a significant prison sentence. Louisiana is barely one year into its criminal justice reforms and has already seen a savings of $12.2 million, twice what the Justice Reinvestment Task Force originally projected. Over the next decade, the state is expected to save $262 million and reinvest 70 percent of the savings into programs and policies to reduce recidivism and support victims of crime. Right now, the state is seeking proposals from community organizations statewide to help implement the programming that is expected to successfully drive this initiative, and give people returning home from prison a better chance of living a productive life as a taxpayer, and not a tax burden.
Local prisons must enact reforms
While the state of Louisiana is being praised for its criminal justice reforms, local prisons have come under fire for their treatment of prisoners. The East Baton Rouge Parish Prison has made the news on multiple occasions this year due to an unacceptably high number of preventable prisoner deaths. An East Baton Rouge Metro Council meeting produced numerous ideas to help better solve this local prison issue. The Advocate’s Steve Hardy was there:
Councilwoman Barbara Freiberg said she didn’t want to minimize the deaths of people in custody, but she did say the parish has sought to do better by privatizing health care at the prison in the past two years. She wondered if the contractors had data that could demonstrate whether any improvements have been made. Councilwoman Donna Collins-Lewis said the Promise of Justice report is enough to compel action and promised to follow up with advocates.Nevertheless, council members said that new facilities would take money, which would likely require buy-in from taxpayers. Councilman Matt Watson urged everyone to back the proposed Bridge Center, a crisis center that could take in people who need mental health or substance abuse treatment as an alternate to jail. Councilman LaMont Cole said it is also worth investigating bond reform and examining whether judges are sentencing offenders fairly.
Activists are particularly frustrated after a report showed 25 deaths occurred in the East Baton Rouge Parish prison from 2012 to 2016. Many of those who died had yet to be convicted of a crime.
Number of the day
$23,000 – Median household income for families with young parents, ages 18 to 24, in the U.S. (Source: Annie E. Casey Foundation)