Oregon’s prison system is gearing up to send inmates out the door with health insurance, dramatically expanding the number covered for medical and mental health needs, reports the Oregonian. Since most have low or income, thousands of inmates and parolees will be eligible for government-paid health insurance for the first time after Jan. 1. Authorities estimate up to 95 percent of the 4,500 inmates to be released next year will qualify.
The Corrections Department hired a re-entry benefits coordinator to enroll inmates. Officials said the insurance would help more parolees get treatment for substance abuse issues, which effect an estimated 70 percent of the state’s 14,707 inmates. State auditors said the expanded health coverage “has the potential to relieve financially stressed counties of nearly all costs of providing substance abuse treatment to offenders in the community.” Federal research concludes that expanded care also could reduce recidivism.