By Commissioner Jonathan Young
On Monday, Aug. 28, Senator Cory Booker visited the Camden County Correctional Facility to announce new legislation that would increase access to mental health and substance use resources for incarcerated individuals. During his opening remarks he called the Camden County Jail a model for the nation for treating core challenges for our incarcerated population that will reduce recidivism. After the announcement, Sen. Booker hosted a roundtable with several members of the incarcerated population enrolled in the facility’s medically assisted treatment program.
Currently, incarcerated individuals lose Medicaid coverage due to the Medicaid Inmate Exclusion Provision. This creates significant issues not only for residents in correctional facilities who require medically assisted treatment for substance use disorder, but for facilities themselves as these medications are incredibly expensive and require constant streams of funding. However, the Rehabilitation and Recovery During Incarceration Act would accomplish the following:
• Create a state option for states to allow Medicaid and CHIP to cover mental health and substance use services for eligible inmates.
• Provide an FMAP increase to states who choose this option.
• Require states to reinvest additional funds in technology and data sharing between state Medicaid programs, jails and prisons, and community-based providers and organizations.
• Mandate a report from the Comptroller General on the impact of the coverage option.
Medically assisted treatment is a critically important tool that we utilize at our jail and it is a renowned program. In fact, the White House Drug Czar, called it a model for the rest of the country this past spring. This legislation will allow our facility as well as facilities statewide to continue helping their inmates access lifesaving and lifechanging medications.
At the Camden County Correctional Facility, the medically assisted treatment initiative, which was launched several years ago, prescribes medications for opioid use disorder to inmates to combat symptoms of withdrawal, avoid overdoses and aid in improving an inmate’s transition back into the community once they are released. The medications provided to inmates include Suboxone, Methadone, Vivitrol and Sublocade.
The program also focuses on several key policies and practices to ensure success. These include: providing photo identification cards to ease stress on newly released individuals; coordinating the release time of a program participant to ensure that the services they immediately need upon release are open and available to them; partnering with Cooper Center for Healing and the Camden County Coalition to streamline the referral process for participants; creating a reentry residential house pilot for the male population; providing newly released individuals with backpacks containing Narcan, program officials contact information, toiletries and other essentials; and facilitating a connection to healthcare.
These medications are life changing for so many individuals and we need to prioritize making them available. I and the entire Board of Commissioners commend Sen. Booker for prioritizing such an important issue.
If you have any other questions about Camden County services, please call me at (856) 225-5451 or email me at jonthan.young@CamdenCounty.com.