More states are trying to connect released prisoners to health care programs on the outside, reports Stateline. That often means enrolling them in Medicaid and scheduling appointments for medical services before they are released. Some states, like Massachusetts and Connecticut, provide help to all outgoing prisoners. Programs in some other states are more targeted. Rhode Island and New York focus on ex-offenders with HIV or AIDS. Elsewhere, probation and parole are being used to encourage ex-offenders to adhere to certain treatments. Utah passed a measure this year that cuts probation time for former prisoners if they get treatment for mental illness or substance abuse.
“We want to support them as much as possible to make sure they are productive and do not return to prison,” said Dr. Shira Shavit of Transitions Clinic in San Francisco. Many ex-offenders who served long sentences were young when they were locked up and health care wasn't a concern for them. While in prison, they didn't have to worry about choosing doctors, scheduling appointments, or managing their own medications. “They are people who probably haven't accessed health care outside of (emergency rooms) or anywhere,” said Jesse Jannetta of the Urban Institute's Justice Policy Center. “Oftentimes, they are people who have been diagnosed for the first time while in prison. On the outside, they don't know where to go to access care.”