Weekly Update: July 25, 2023

COCHS Weekly Update: July 25, 2023

Highlighted Stories

Editor's Note
It is no secret that people cycling through the criminal justice system have high rates of chronic and infectious disease, injuries, mental illness, and substance use disorders. There are probably multiple reasons why this population has significant physical and mental health needs. A new study (see article directly below) from Florida suggests one possible reason for the poor health status of justice involved individuals: people released from correctional institutions are more likely to return to communities that are medically underserved.

Could this dearth of health care services be criminogenic given the high-rate of recidivism and if so, what strategies could be employed to ameliorate these gaps in medical and behavioral health? Looking at the recently approved 1115 waivers ( California and Washington State) permitting Medicaid coverage in the last 90 days of incarceration, the reintroduced Reentry Act, the Equity in Pre-Trial Health Coverage Act (see story below), the Due Process Continuity Care Act, and the recent State Medicaid Director letter, Opportunities to Test Transition-Related Strategies to Support Community Reentry and Improve Care Transitions for Individuals Who Are Incarcerated, we at COCHS see these developments as crucial steps that could help to address the insufficient health care in the communities that former incarcerated people return to. The fact that previously uninsured people will now have coverage might provide an incentive for markets to respond with increased health care services.

Medical Xpress: Study reveals prison releasees more likely to return to medically underserved communities
In a new study, Florida State University researchers find that previously incarcerated individuals are more likely to return to communities unable to meet their health care needs. The researchers reviewed data from various sources, including information on 256,000 prison releases from the Florida Department of Corrections between 2008-2017. The authors suggest that lawmakers consider incarceration return rates when determining funding for community-based services.

Office of Senator Ed Markey: Senators Markey, Merkley Announce Legislation to Protect Health Care for Americans Who Cannot Afford Bail
Senators Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) today announced the reintroduction of the Equity in Pre-Trial Health Coverage Act legislation that would protect the continuity of federal health benefits under Medicaid for Americans who have been detained while they await trial and, in many cases, remain in custody because they cannot afford bail. Currently, individuals who have been arrested and are able to post bail maintain their coverage. People who remain in custody—but have not been convicted of the crime for which they have been charged—can lose it. As a result, a gap exists in coverage for individuals covered by federal health programs awaiting trial, which keeps them from being able to access essential care in their community and shifts the cost of medical treatment for pretrial detainees to local city, county, and state agencies.

CHCF: Making CalAIM Services Work for People Leaving Jails and Prisons
In this interview with Mariana Torres, CHCF Senior Program Officer, she discusses CHCF's resources and toolkits that will assist people on the ground in implementing CalAIM’s array of new programs, including new “reentry” services for people leaving correctional facilities.

CMS: CMS Approves California & Kentucky Requests to Provide Essential Behavioral Health Services Through Mobile Crisis Intervention Teams
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) approved proposals from California and Kentucky for community-based mobile crisis intervention teams to provide Medicaid crisis services. This marks six states that have expanded access to community-based mental health and substance use crisis care through President Biden’s American Rescue Plan. California and Kentucky will be able to provide Medicaid services through mobile crisis teams by connecting eligible individuals in crisis to a behavioral health provider 24 hours per day, 365 days a year.

Opioid Epidemic

News Medical: Fentanyl overdose reversal: New hope on the horizon
Researchers at Indiana University have identified a new method of reversing the effects of fentanyl, which is 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine. Their study, published in the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry, could lead to a new way to reverse overdoses either through a new product or working synchronously with naloxone. Researchers found CBD could behave as a negative allosteric modulator at the binding site. However, high concentrations were necessary during initial testing. Researchers modified the cannabidiol structure to be more effective and found that in the in vitro diagnostics, it successfully reversed the effects of fentanyl.

San Francisco Standard: San Francisco Jail Stocked With Narcan as Overdose Deaths Rise
San Francisco’s health department is now stocking a city jail with free overdose reversal medication and fentanyl test strips for visitors. The announcement comes in the wake of a recent push to arrest and jail people who are suspected of being under the influence of drugs in public. Between May 30 and June 18, law enforcement officers booked 42 people into jail under suspicion of public intoxication, but none accepted treatment upon release.

WILX: Michigan health department works with county jails to combat opioid overdoses
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services is working with county jails to help those in need. They’re looking to expand medications across Michigan in hopes of reducing opioid overdoses. The department wants to help reduce the risk of overdoses by expanding opioid use disorder programs in Michigan county jails, using opioid settlement funding.

California Healthline: The Painful Legacy of ‘Law and Order’ Treatment of Addiction in Jail
Walker County, nestled in northwestern Alabama’s Appalachian foothills has one of the nation’s highest nonfatal overdose rates. The county was among the communities that pharmaceutical companies flooded with millions of pain pills in the 2000s. Addiction rates soared. Over time, people moved on to illicit drugs. At least 2,800 people with a substance use disorder are not receiving treatment and existing treatment is limited. The Sheriff’s Office runs a program to help people find treatment. But it’s limited to those without an outstanding arrest warrant and with no more than two drug convictions, so few residents who are in need qualify.

Virginia Mercury: States stiffen penalties for fentanyl, despite public health concerns
As they struggle to reduce drug overdose deaths, policymakers are embroiled in a debate over creating and increasing criminal penalties related to fentanyl. Legislators pushing the new wave of criminal penalties say the laws will deter drug distributors and hold offenders accountable. But opponents — including some public health officials — warn of potential consequences such as worsening the opioid crisis and pushing users toward more dangerous synthetic alternatives.

State Roundup

Los Angeles Daily News: LA County finishes moving juvenile halls to Downey ahead of state shutdown
Los Angeles County has moved the last of its youth detainees to the newly reopened Los Padrinos Juvenile Hall, marking the end of a months-long scramble to clear out the county’s troubled juvenile halls before a state ordered shutdown of those facilities later this month.

Daily Beast: Illinois Will Be the First State to Eliminate Cash Bail After Court Ruling
The Illinois Supreme Court ruling has the state set to become the first in the nation eliminate cash bail. Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed the SAFE-T Act, which eliminates cash bail, into law last year but its implementation was halted after being challenged by lawsuits from prosecutors and sheriffs around the state.

nwitimes: Top Indiana court declines to review scope of sheriffs' authority over county jails
The Indiana Supreme Court has again declined to address the question of whether county sheriffs enjoy near-unlimited authority to operate the county jail as they see fit. Last week, the state's high court unanimously opted against reviewing a March 9 Court of Appeals ruling that held the Clinton County sheriff is free to allow inmates at his central Indiana jail to use electronic cigarettes and consume smokeless tobacco — notwithstanding an order adopted by the county commissioners banning tobacco use in all county buildings.

WFMJ: Louisiana youths held at adult prison's old death row suffer heat, isolation, advocates say
Juveniles held in a former death row building at a Louisiana prison for adults are suffering through dangerous heat and psychologically damaging isolation in their cells with little or no mental health care, inadequate schooling and foul water, advocates say in a federal court filing asking a judge to order that the youths be moved.

Teen Vogue: A Nebraska Teen Was Sentenced to Jail on an Abortion-Related Charge
A Nebraska case involving a mother who illegally gave her daughter an abortion pill has put renewed attention on the role digital information and communication could play in prosecutions around abortion. State abortion bans typically do not target the pregnant person — only Nevada and South Carolina have active laws criminalizing the pregnant person for taking medication to end a pregnancy. Still, prosecutors can use other laws like “wrongful death” statutes, targeting friends or family who might “aid or abet” someone in pursuit of an abortion — which is illegal in some states — or, as in the Nebraska case.

New Jersey
app: What must happen for systemic change in the prison system, from people who have been there
While efforts are being made to help former New Jersey inmates avoid returning to prison after they are released, re-acclimating to society afterward is not something that happens overnight. Edwin “Chino” Ortiz founded the Returning Citizens Support Group, an Essex County-based group that works to fill gaps in resources being left by state-funded programs. He thinks those gaps exist because the people running the programs have not themselves been incarcerated.

New York Times: Where the Sheriff Is King, These Women Say He Coerced Them Into Sex
In 2012, three months after Eddie Scott became sheriff of Clay County, Miss., a claim by a woman he had helped put behind bars threatened to tarnish his earliest days in office. A woman said in a court filing that Eddie Scott, sheriff of Clay County, had coerced her into a sexual relationship after she was arrested. The revelations could have led to an internal investigation, a criminal inquiry or a public reckoning for the sheriff. Instead, powerful officials in Clay County took no action. But an investigation by The New York Times and the Mississippi Center for Investigative Reporting found that during his 11 years in office, Sheriff Scott has been accused harassing women, coercing them into sex and retaliating against those who criticize him or allege abuse.

The Frontier: Oklahoma is trying to treat people with severe mental illness in jail, but many still languish in cells waiting for hospital beds
Tulsa County Sheriff Vic Regalado has ordered the end of a program to treat people with severe mental illness at the David L. Moss Criminal Justice Center. County officials say the jail can’t handle the needs of people so mentally ill they don’t understand their criminal charges. But a state hospital still has a months-long backlog of people waiting for admission.

Leader Vindicator: Clarion County Jail leaders focus on inmate mental health
Inmate mental health was again the topic of a recent discussion among members of the Clarion County Prison Board. Warden Jeff Hornberger reported that he has spent “countless hours” attempting to get inmates into any mental hospital in Pennsylvania. But normally, according to Hornberger, the jail will go through the process only to be told that the individual won’t be accepted at another facility because they are incarcerated.

PennLive: No windows. No AC. Rising heat raises alarms at Dauphin County Prison
As temperatures soar in central Pennsylvania, men and women inside the Dauphin County Prison are sweltering in their cells without air-conditioning, windows, or access to an outdoor breeze. And making things worse, they must spend 23 hours a day confined in these oppressively hot rooms, because of frequent lockdowns. County officials say the lockdowns are due to staffing shortages.

South Carolina
FOX Carolina: Correctional officer caught hiding contraband in food
An Upstate correctional officer was fired and arrested after the South Carolina Department of Corrections said he tried to sneak drugs into work. The officer was caught trying to conceal cylinders of contraband by hiding them in his dinner and was charged with trafficking meth, possession of marijuana with intent to distribute, providing prisoners with contraband, misconduct in office and criminal conspiracy.

Rikers Island

New York Times: Judge’s Rebuke of New York City Signals Potential of Rikers Takeover
A day after the top federal prosecutor in Manhattan called for New York City’s jails to be taken over by an outside authority, the judge who would make the decision expressed strong disapproval of the city’s management of Rikers Island and other lockups. The federal judge, Laura Taylor Swain, wrote on Tuesday that the administration of Mayor Eric Adams had failed to “address the dangerous conditions that perpetually plague the jails and imperil those who are confined and who work there.”

The Guardian: New York’s Rikers Island sees seventh death this year after man dies in his cell
Calls for a federal government takeover of New York’s notorious Rikers Island jail are likely to grow after a stabbing suspect died in his cell early on Sunday morning, the seventh inmate death this year and the 26th since New York’s mayor, Eric Adams, took office in January 2022.

Mental Health Initiatives

NACo: Community Mental Health Services May Support Reducing Jail Populations
Too often, when counties had no alternative recourse to address mental health, jails became the default institution for triage and care. Consequently, there is a now a higher proportion of individuals with mental health conditions incarcerated in jails. The Stepping Up Initiative — supported by NACo, the American Psychiatric Association Foundation and the Council of State Governments Justice Center — assists county government efforts to reduce the prevalence of individuals with mental health conditions in the criminal legal system.

ADA & Gender Dysphoria

19th: In some states, gender dysphoria is a protected disability — and momentum could be growing
For nearly six months, Kesha Williams was housed with men in a Virginia prison. Williams, a transgender woman, was denied access to her hormone medication, misgendered and harassed by prison deputies, according to a lawsuit she filed against the county sheriff and detention center staff. Her ongoing legal fight has created historic precedent: People with gender dysphoria are protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA excludes disability protections for people with “gender identity disorder” in the same paragraph that it excludes pedophilia and compulsive gambling. However, gender dysphoria — distress experienced by many, but not all, trans people due to their body not aligning with their gender — is a recognized medical condition.


NIJ: California Prison Industry Authority (CALPIA)
A training and production program for incarcerated individuals, with the overall goal of reducing recidivism is rated Promising. Compared with individuals in the waitlist comparison group, individuals who participated in the program had a statistically significant lower likelihood of being rearrested, reconvicted, or returned to custody during the 3-year follow-up period.


Citrus County Chronicle: CoreCivic fines continue to add up
Last year, the Citrus County began fining CoreCivic for contractually failing to bring critical-level employees up to acceptable levels at the privately run detention facility in Lecanto. For June 2023, staffing was at 58.99 percent, the lowest since the county started tracking the numbers. And in May, the county assessed a non-performance assessment of $1,000 per day, for a total of $31,000.

New Jersey Monitor: Biden administration says closure of ICE detention center in N.J. would be ‘catastrophic’
The Biden administration is siding with a private prison corporation’s legal effort to keep an immigration detention center in Elizabeth from shuttering, claiming its impending closure would be “catastrophic” to federal immigration efforts. The U.S. Department of Justice in a legal filing calls New Jersey’s 2021 law banning all immigration detention contracts unconstitutional and says closing the Elizabeth facility would harm the federal government amid an influx of migrants and closures of other detention centers around the nation.

Correctional Health Care Vendors

Santa Maria Sun: Jail mental health provider and Sheriff’s Office need better communication, grand jury says
Santa Barbara County grand jury report found that the Sheriff’s Office needs to improve the delivery of jail mental health services, mental health crisis prevention training, and interagency communication with its service provider, Wellpath. The grand jury recommended that Santa Barbara County and the Sheriff’s Office request county counsel to legally review the present coordination and communications process between Wellpath, or its successors, and the Sheriff’s Office custody staff to allow inmates’ mental health issues to be revealed for housing and program decisions.

NBC 15 News: Mobile Metro Jail nurse charged with possession of Meth, Fentanyl
Mark Everette Long, a nurse for Mobile Metro Jail, has been arrested and charged with possession of Methamphetamine and Fentanyl, according to court records. According to a MCSO spokesperson, Long worked for NaphCare, a provider of medical services in correctional facilities, and was assigned to Mobile Metro Jail.