Weekly Update: May 17, 2022

COCHS Weekly Update: May 17, 2022

Highlighted Stories

National Association of Medicaid Directors: Reentry From Incarceration
Opportunities for Federal Action:
  • Allow states to provide Medicaid coverage up to 90 days before re-entry from incarceration.
  • Provide clarity on how changes to the “inmate exclusion” policy would apply to pre-trial populations.
  • Provide planning and implementation grants to support crucial systems work.
  • Support comprehensive crisis response systems.
  • Provide clear guidelines on braiding funding.

House Committee on Energy & Commerce: House Committee Releases Bipartisan Mental Health and SUD Package
Earlier this week, House Committee on Energy and Commerce (E&C) Chair Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and Ranking Member Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) introduced the Restoring Hope for Mental Health and Well-Being Act of 2022. This legislative package addresses the impending implementation of the 9-8-8 hotline, substance use treatment, prevention, and recovery, improving workforce initiatives, and more.

Health Affairs: Trends In The Use Of Treatment For Substance Use Disorders, 2010–19
Rapidly rising drug overdose rates in the United States during the past decade underscore the need to increase access to treatment among people with substance use disorders (SUDs). Compared with 2013, outpatient visits for general health in the prior year increased 3.6 percentage points by the 2017–19 period. Use of any SUD treatment in the prior year remained unchanged, but treatment use among people involved in the criminal legal system increased by about 6.2 percentage points by the end of the study period. Among those receiving SUD treatment, there was a 14.9-percentage-point increase in having treatment paid for by Medicaid between 2010–13 and 2017–19.

NC Health News: Strings attached to new state funds for addiction treatment in jails
North Carolina state lawmakers are making $2 million available to North Carolina sheriffs to start or expand opioid addiction treatment programs in their jails, but the money comes with a big caveat. The $2 million grant program included in the state budget late last year specifies that the funds can be used to provide only one of the three FDA-approved medications for opioid use disorder. Some addiction experts argue that the favored medication — naltrexone, also known by the brand name Vivitrol — is the least effective of the three.

Kaiser Health News: As Overdoses Soar, More States Decriminalize Fentanyl Testing Strips
With time running out in the 2022 legislative session, Georgia lawmakers took up a bill to regulate raw milk. An amendment suddenly got tacked onto the House version of the bill, although the new wording had nothing to do with dairy. The language called for legalizing the use of strips that test drugs for fentanyl, a potent synthetic opioid fueling a wave of fatal overdoses across Georgia and the U.S. The revised milk bill passed overwhelmingly on the last day of the General Assembly session.

New York Times: Overdose Deaths Continue Rising, With Fentanyl and Meth Key Culprits
After a catastrophic increase in 2020, deaths from drug overdoses rose again to record-breaking levels in 2021, nearing 108,000, the result of an ever-worsening fentanyl crisis, according to preliminary new data published on Wednesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The increase of nearly 15 percent followed a much steeper rise of almost 30 percent in 2020, an unrelenting crisis that has consumed federal and state drug policy officials.

San Diego Union Tribune: Civilian review board recommends jail inmates be given access to naloxone
The Citizens’ Law Enforcement Review Board voted unanimously Tuesday to recommend that the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department give people incarcerated in its jails access to naloxone, a life-saving medication that can reverse an opiate overdose. Currently, jail deputies carry doses of naloxone. But correctional health care experts recommend inmates have easy access to it in living units so that a person who has overdosed receives naloxone as soon as possible.

CPR News: Treatment wasn’t working. Would jail have saved a woman in Lakewood from fentanyl?
Allison, a mother in her 30s, had suffered for years from mental illness and addiction. She used opiates, including fentanyl-laced pills. When she arrived at the Monarch Sober Living Homes, she was newly sober after several days. But in March, Allison died of an overdose. Her death came just as Colorado lawmakers began debating a new approach to the felony drug. Now, the state is poised to increase the criminal penalty for possessing small amounts of fentanyl to a felony. The change was one of the most debated ideas at the legislature this year — with experts, advocates, and lawmakers all deeply divided over whether that approach will help, or harm, people like Allison.


NCCHC: CDC Update on COVID-19 in Corrections
What should we tell our employees and incarcerated populations about masks? About vaccines? About quarantine and isolation? While guidance on the COVID pandemic has changed rapidly as case counts and deaths have diminished, it’s important to know how this guidance applies to correctional institutions. Join NCCHC and CDC for an update on CDC guidance for preventing and managing COVID in corrections, a congregate setting with a medically vulnerable population. Thu, May 19, 2022 3:30 PM - 5:00 PM EDT.

Women In Corrections

NIJ: Addressing Trauma in Women's Prisons
The population of women behind bars is surging, and with it the need and opportunity for services addressing the traumatic past experiences that in many instances contributed to women’s criminal convictions and incarceration. Incarcerated women are more likely to experience a range of violence and other victimizations, as well as other traumatic experiences, prior to being incarcerated. All play a major role in their pathways to involvement with the criminal justice system.

New York Times: What Would a Feminist Jail Look Like?
In a recent paper the Justice Lab and Women’s Community Justice Association explained that prisons have been historically designed for men and have neglected the particular needs of women — chiefly that they are caregivers and that they so often have been the victims of violent crime. In effect, rehabilitation, including therapy, should begin immediately, the entry process sped up so that women aren’t spending days in central booking without access to a shower, for example. And more women, the paper argues, should be on staff at the facility.

Los Angeles Times: ICE rushed to release a sick woman, avoiding responsibility for her death. She isn’t alone
The circumstances surrounding Medina Leon’s release and death were discovered among more than 16,000 pages of documents disclosed as part of an ongoing lawsuit brought by The Times against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security seeking records of abuse at immigration detention centers. The documents provide a rare look into one of several known instances in which detainees were discharged on the edge of death, underscoring long-standing complaints from advocates about uncounted deaths of people who have been in ICE custody.

Public Safety Controversies

Auditor of the State of California: Law Enforcement Departments Have Not Adequately Guarded Against Biased Conduct
Our audit of five law enforcement departments throughout the State uncovered the actions of some officers at each department who engaged in biased conduct, either during their on-duty interactions with individuals or online through their social media posts. Although we did not find officers who were members of hate groups, some officers made statements indicating that they support problematic groups.

New York Times: Adams Defends Police for Handcuffing Vendor Who Sold Mangoes in Subway
Mayor Eric Adams on Monday defended police officers who last month handcuffed a woman accused of selling fruit without a license in a Brooklyn subway station, saying mango sales could pave the way for bigger problems. Mr. Adams said that New Yorkers must “follow rules” when selling food in the subways, and that the Police Department should enforce them. “Next day, it’s propane tanks being on the subway system,” Mr. Adams said at an unrelated City Hall news conference. “The next day, it’s barbecuing on the subway system. You just can’t do that.”

Washington Post: When the sheriff waged a war on drugs in a Mississippi county
No-knock raids were the rule rather than the exception, and they led to serious allegations against the department. The sheriff defended his tenure, saying “we cleaned this county up.” A six-part audio series examines how no-knock warrants are deployed in the American justice system — and what happens when accountability is flawed at every level.

Rikers Island

silive.com: Correction officer, 38, who jumped from Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge was ‘well liked and respected,’ union head says
The 38-year-old Department of Correction officer who died after jumping from the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge Friday morning has been identified as Edward Roman. Roman was assigned to the North Infirmary Command at Rikers Island, according to a statement from Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association President Benny Boscio. Boscio called for reforms in the wake of Roman’s death.

New York Times: Man, 25, Is the Fourth Inmate to Die at Rikers This Year
A 25-year-old homeless man is believed to have committed suicide at the Rikers Island jail complex in New York City on Saturday evening, according to people familiar with the case. The man, Dashawn Carter, was found hanging from a window in his cell at the Anna M. Kross Center just two days after being transferred back to Rikers from a state psychiatric hospital.

New York Times: Rikers Officers Lagged in Helping 3 Detainees Who Died, Report Finds
Mr. Diaz’s death is one of three described in the report by the Board of Correction. The report did not list the causes of death for the three men. But the document illustrates in vivid detail how staffing at Rikers Island has endangered those in the custody of its facilities, even as a federal judge may soon consider whether the jail complex there should remain under city control.

Dental Care

PBS News Hour: How poor dental care in prison makes reentry harder for formerly incarcerated people
While receiving prison health care, incarcerated people struggle in particular to get dental care. ‘You have a toothache? Yank it,’” said Nanete Sorich, public affairs manager for Pioneer Human Services, which provides reentry services to people leaving prison. Many prisons will wait till a tooth problem is an absolute emergency before they do something. Untreated dental issues that begin, or are exacerbated, in prison can carry forward into a person’s life after prison, which can affect a person’s ability to find jobs and build relationships.

Fines & Fees

Prison Policy Initiative: Insufficient funds: How prison and jail “release cards” perpetuate the cycle of poverty
When a person leaves a correctional facility, they often receive their funds — wages earned while behind bars, support from family members, or money the person had in their possession when arrested — on fee-laden prepaid debit cards. When release cards came on the scene as one of the newer ventures from companies that have traditionally profited by charging incarcerated people and their families exorbitant rates for phone calls, money transfers, or other technological services. While release cards were novel in 2015, they are now ubiquitous.

ctpost: CT’s right to collect money from former prisoners is curtailed, but not ended
Connecticut will no longer have the ability to claw back money that formerly incarcerated people win through lawsuits — unless individuals were convicted of “certain serious crimes.” Legislators considered a bill this session that would have eliminated the state’s authority to collect so-called prison debt if the formerly incarcerated came upon a windfall via lottery winnings, inheritance or a lawsuit.


Gothamist: Advocates for parole reform make a pitch to lawmakers in Albany
Scores of formerly incarcerated people and other criminal justice reform activists converged on Albany on Tuesday in a bid to change the state’s parole laws. The legislative push, which brought together reform advocates from Rochester, Long Island, Syracuse and the five boroughs, backed two bills that supporters say will make it easier for incarcerated men and women to secure parole, namely anyone over 55 who’s served at least 15 years of time and those who have demonstrated a record of improvement.


Vera: Diversion Programs, Explained
Diversion is a broad term referring to “exit ramps” that move people away from the criminal legal system, offering an alternative to arrest, prosecution, and a life behind bars. Although incarceration was historically believed to improve public safety, research suggests that it is ineffective in doing so and has a minimal impact, if any, on reducing crime. Instead, diversion programs target the underlying problems that led to the criminalized behavior in the first place.

Criminal Justice's Detrimental Impact On Mental Health

Fort Worth Star Telegram: ‘We need to do something’: Protest over jail gets Tarrant County leaders’ attention
A Tarrant County commissioner said Tuesday he was disturbed by reports of people with mental disabilities in the county’s jails, including a woman who is now in a coma after spending several days in custody. “These issues cry out to be addressed, we will address them,” Commissioner Roy Brooks told the crowd at a public meeting, after several speakers called for investigations, policy changes and other action.

WRTV: Jails have become 'dumping grounds' for inmates with mental illness, Marion County sheriff says
The Marion County sheriff and the presiding judge say the state's failure to provide treatment for the mentally ill has caused a crisis in the local jail. "We have individuals who are being detained in Marion County jail who are having to wait months to be able to get a bed in the state hospitals," said Judge Amy Jones. The problem has left dozens of defendants languishing in the Marion County Jail while they wait for space in Logansport State Hospital

Mental Health Initiatives in Corrections

Action News 5: Shelby County (TN) looks to divert people with mental illness away from jail
In April, Bonner and Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris announced a new crisis intervention program, allowing clinical professionals to be embedded with the sheriff’s crisis intervention team. It’s the latest iteration of a program that began in Memphis following a 1987 incident in which police shot and killed a suicidal man who ran toward them. It’s a model used in communities across the country and around the world. The idea is to provide officers with special training to help them deescalate tense situations and steer people experiencing mental episodes away from jail and toward community resources that can help them.

4 NBC Washington: Behavioral Health Unit Opens in Prince George's County
MedStar Southern Maryland Hospital Center’s new adult behavioral health unit includes new treatment areas, examination spaces, a quiet room and a facility for administrative hearings while patients are in care. Seventy percent of the people in Prince George's County's jail arrive with prescribed mental health medication. The hope is that by providing more of these facilities, people can be cared for in safer environments.

Click Orlando: Flagler County jail program helps inmates dealing with addiction, mental health issues
Of all inmates coming into the Flagler County jail, 80% are suffering from addiction and/or mental health issues, according to Flagler County Sheriff Rick Staly. So in March, after receiving a federal grant for almost $600,000, Staly converted two sections of the jail to begin helping inmates with their addiction — if they agree to take the help. Inmates at the jail who are addicted to drugs or alcohol live together and recover together. For 12 weeks, they spend every day, all day, with each other and their counselors.

WFYI: Delaware County gets grant to run state addiction services program at county jail
Delaware County will use a state grant to bring an addiction recovery and reentry program to its county jail. The program is already running in Jay County. The program will soon come to Delaware County, thanks to a $472,000 grant from Mental Health America Indiana and the Indiana Forensic Support Services. Its official name is the Integrated Reentry and Correctional Support Program.

The Gazette: Treatment in jails gets late, key boost amid Senate fentanyl debate
A Senate (GA) committee advanced an amendment to the sweeping fentanyl bill late this week that. The change represents a significant expansion of treatment offerings to a group that is among the most at risk to die of overdoses — those with substance-use disorders who could end up going to jail or prison under a new fentanyl law. The amendment requires that jails provide qualifying inmates with medication-assisted treatment, considered by experts to be the best option available to successfully treat opioid addiction.

Correctional Health Care Vendors

Voices Of Monterey Bay: Nurse recounts futile life-saving effort
In her four days working in the Monterey County Jail, registered nurse Michelle Nattrass was struck by three things — the dingy, dirty cells, the overwhelming workload and how icy cold one inmate felt when she tried to take his pulse. The inmate was Carlos Chavez, an apparent suicide victim who died in circumstances that add to longstanding questions about the ability of the Monterey County Sheriff’s Office to monitor prisoners in crisis. From Nattrass’s description, however, it sounds as though Chavez had been moved to a less secure “isolation cell”. Nattrass said the orientation and staffing levels provided by Wellpath. were inadequate.

Virginian Pilot: Norfolk sheriff to review jail’s mental health program after Virginian-Pilot report
Norfolk Sheriff Joe Baron has ordered an internal probe of the Norfolk City Jail’s mental health program following a Virginian-Pilot article detailing allegations about pervasive prescription drug abuse and overmedication of inmates within the jail. Dr. Sachs, who was employed by WellPath, the jail’s medical and mental health provider, resigned on April 29. Sachs told the Pilot he believed the jail’s previous psychiatrist overprescribed psychiatric medication to inmates, specifically antidepressants, anti-anxiety and antipsychotic drugs.