Study: Counties Face Challenges To Meet Health Needs of Inmates
The shift of some state prison inmates to county jurisdiction could strain local health care and social services programs that have alreadyÂ been hit by budget cuts, according to a study by RAND, California Watch reports.
The study examined Alameda, Los Angeles, Kern and San Diego counties.Â Researchers conducted focus groups with formerÂ inmates and their families and interviews with health care providers (Pearson, California Watch, 11/20).
Five years ago, a federal judge ruled thatÂ poor prison health care in California was leading to about 50 inmate deaths annually. A panel of three judges appointed a federal receiver to oversee prison health care and ordered the state to reduce its prison population.
The state began sending lower-level offenders and parole violators to county jails on Oct. 1.
According to the study, the shift of nonviolent inmates and parolees could put more strain on local services because some inmates could return to areas that have high poverty levels and low levels of education.
The study noted that newly released prisoners could have significant health care needs, especially for mental health care and treatment for substance misuse.
Researchers said that community health care providers might have to treat inmates who lack insurance, have limited funds with which to pay for care and do not have comprehensive medical records.
According to the study, the federal health reform law could help improve access to services by expanding eligibility for Medi-Cal, California's Medicaid program.
The study authors recommended that officials monitor the effects on health care services as inmates are transferred to the county level.
Researchers also said the state should set aside funds to evaluate the effect of the realignment plan to determine if any changes should be made (California Watch, 11/20).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.