June 23, 2009
When people with mental illness are incarcerated, often for very minor crimes, they lose access to Medicaid and Social Security benefits which they had previous received. Even when benefits could be restored upon release, frequently administrative delays slow down the process. Reapplying for benefits is time-consuming and complex, and many jails and prisons do not assist in planning prior to release. Without access to medication and income immediately on release, people with mental illnesses are less likely to get and stay well, and are at increased risk of getting re-entangled with the criminal justice system.
A new bill is being introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives to help ensure that people re-entering the community can have ready access to the benefits they need to survive. The Recidivism Reduction Act, HR 2829, provides an incentive to state Medicaid systems to suspend, rather than terminate Medicaid benefits during incarceration – making it easier for the benefits to be restored on release. The bill also requires the Social Security Administration (SSA) to provide a provisional benefit for some SSI recipients immediately upon release from jail; SSA would then complete a review of the individual’s eligibility and stop payments in the rare case that the person is no longer eligible.
Access to medical care, through Medicaid, and income
Read background information on the Recidivism Reduction Act.
Read a draft of the Recidivism Reduction Act.
View a chart of the changes to Medicaid and Social Security proposed by the Recidivism Reduction Act.