This past weekend in Clark County, Nevada at the NACo National Annual Convention, Sheriff Clayton co-hosted the “closed-door” meeting of the Task Force and also co-hosted the Town Hall session that was open to all attendees of the convention.
The major focus of the Task Force at this meeting was the Medicaid Inmate Exclusion Policy, a federal policy that takes away Medicaid coverage and other federal health care benefits from individuals incarcerated in our local jails. This would include taking away physical and mental health services from our nations Veterans while they are incarcerated, many of whom suffer from PTSD and behavioral health disorders. This policy is not just restricted to those who have been convicted. Under this policy, all incarcerated persons, including those who are awaiting court and have not been convicted of crimes are subject to having their federal benefits suspended or totally eliminated.
Additionally, this would have a major financial impact on county jails around the country, who by federal law are required to provide medical and mental health care for incarcerated persons. Without benefits of those awaiting their day in court counties would be forced to cover those additional costs. Furthermore,
those most impacted by this policy tend to be disproportionately poor, people of color, and/or individuals coping with mental illness and/or substance use disorder. Sheriff Clayton pointed out that the people who are frequently unable to post bail and have their federal benefits suspended are those who are lower-income or from communities of color. “That is unfair,” he added.
“A topic that has come up in the task force’s initial discussions,” said Sheriff Clayton, “is the need for additional data to back up the stance that the group will take in our advocacy efforts and to track the outcomes that will result from any eventual policy changes.”
Sheriff Clayton described the work Washtenaw County has done mining data and adopting new measures to reduce the number of people with mental health and substance use issues who are incarcerated and cut down on the number of people with those disorders who are ending up back in jail due to technical
violations of their probation.
“If we have someone with a mental health issue or substance use disorder and they end up back in jail,”he said, “I think we qualify that as a societal failure. We know we’re going to have some folks in jail,” Clayton added. “So let’s advocate for the change in the Medicaid Inmate Exclusion Policy and at the same time let’s think about how we keep people out of jail in the first place and not on constructing larger jails that are built to house people with a mental health or substance use issues.”
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