For decades, people addicted to drugs have filled New York’s jails and prisons—an estimated 65% of inmates struggle with substance abuse. Now, New York State is trying to help them when they get out.
Thanks to several groups we support, including the Legal Action Center, inmates get counseling and a Medicaid card as they leave, so they can seek immediate treatment.
In the first couple weeks of freedom, most people are overwhelmed by simply finding a job and a place to live. For some, however, a job also means trading Medicaid for private insurance, and that brings a surprise: Not all insurance companies cover such things as addiction treatment.
Those companies might be violating federal and state parity laws that require equitable insurance coverage to treat addiction and mental illness the same as physical health problems.
With support from The Trust, the Legal Action Center is helping newly released prisoners and their care providers understand the laws and file complaints. The Center also is pushing to better enforce laws on insurance coverage.
“We want to decrease stigma, criminalization, and incarceration for the many people whose criminal records are linked to addictions or mental illness,” says Tracie Gardner, Legal Action Center’s associate director.
Adds Irfan Hasan, The Trust’s healthy lives program director, “Our funding lets the Legal Action Center help New Yorkers recover from addiction, disentangle themselves from the criminal justice system, hold jobs, and become full members of their communities.”