Medicaid refuses to fund drug addiction treatment at Polk County Jail

Medicaid refuses to fund drug addiction treatment at Polk County Jail

Jon (name changed) injured his lower back in an accident for which his doctor prescribed painkillers. As the pain did not subside in the estimated duration, Jon was forced to continue with his pills that made the father of two become a victim of drugs. When not using prescription pills, Jon was taking heroin to which he got addicted in no time. As his funds dried up, he entered the world of crime that landed him in the detention center. However, after discharge, it was the same old story.

There are many people like Jon in American jails today. According to the new report of Bureau of Justice Statistics, more than half of the detainees (aged 18-24) in prisons are people with a drug dependence problem.

Fortunately, in certain prisons like the Polk County Jail, inmates with a drug problem who showed keenness to get sober could avail the services of addiction treatment after getting the go ahead from the judge in charge. Unfortunately, now the inmates of the Polk County Jail undergoing drug addiction treatment have been left in the dock as Medicaid refuses to bear the costs of therapy and treatment.

The Polk County is a fine example where a unique addiction treatment program, known as the Bridges of Iowa program, is being run. Here the detainees spend the first four to five months in the jail wing and later in a residential facility. They are provided intensive therapy for their substance abuse problem. The bills amounting to $130 per person during first six to seven weeks of treatment are submitted to Medicaid. Thereafter, when the participants regain some semblance of order in their lives, they look for jobs and pay for their boarding, lodging and food. Though the jail authorities take care of food and lodging costs, the costs of therapy and treatment are borne by Medicaid.

In the wake of the current development, the Bridges of Iowa organizers are unable to collect payments for counseling and other treatment services.

Once the addiction treatment program was brimming with people, but now the center looks like a “ghost town” says the Clinical Director of the Bridges of Iowa Program, Angie Rodberg. Commenting on the severity of the situation and the reluctance of Medicaid to share the burden, Polk County Supervisor Angela Connolly said, “We know there’s a crisis. The state recognizes that but they are not fulfilling their obligations.”

Treatment more effective than incarceration

The refusal of Medicaid to provide grants and the refusal of other players to get involved is a tragedy as studies in the past have proven beyond doubt that treatment in detention is more beneficial in terms of cost-benefit analysis that simply throwing a person within the walls of the prison cells and punishing him or her for their addiction.

A past study based on a lifetime simulation model predicted that giving treatment and post-release aftercare to the drug-dependent prisoners can “yield substantial economic benefits.” It can bring in positive outcomes for the society and reduce the costs of the criminal justice system.

Getting help

The walls of the prison should not deter a person from getting well or treated and therefore, it is necessary that measures for incorporating addiction treatment in jails be put into practice. In order to bring down the rate of crime, it’s essential to treat the offenders in a better way.

Sovereign Health’s Court Services Division helps such people get permission to attend a drug rehab program in lieu of a jail term. We try to convince the judge and the attorney to trade imprisonment with mental rehab care. To know more about our services and get benefit from them, you can contact us at our 24/7 helpline 866-439-7698 or via online chat.

February 23, 2018

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