Sacramento, CA – Last week, the California Department of Health Care Services (DHCS) announced California has received approval from the federal government to become the first state in the nation to allow specific physical and behavioral health care services for people incarcerated in state prisons to access California’s Medi-Cal system 90 days prior to their release. This positive change will allow for continuity of care as people transition from custody to freedom.
Assembly Bill 1214 (Waldron, 2021) provided the framework for this first-of-its-kind initiative. Understanding the dire need for incarcerated people to have access to proper medical care for chronic diseases and addiction treatments, Assemblymember Marie Waldron (R-Valley Center) said, “ Making it easier for justice involved persons to continue healthcare and addiction treatments upon release will save lives, reduce recidivism and also save taxpayer dollars.”
According to Waldron, this legislation would provide “uninterrupted health coverage to guarantee the high-risk, high-need justice-involved population receive much-needed care as they transition back to their communities.”
Medi-Cal services are currently utilized only after release for most individuals. The newly adopted pre-release medical services will help with an easier re-entry and adaption to life after prison and, ultimately, reduce recidivism. This is another step the state is taking to ensure health equity for all Californians.
As Waldron’s bill soared through the Legislature, it caught the attention of the Administration and was then absorbed into the Budget. Assemblywoman Waldron stated “I am thankful for the bipartisan support my bill received, and to the administration for ultimately adopting this program into the budget. The merit of this policy is something we can all agree on – ensuring that those leaving incarceration are able to receive the critical medical care they need when returning home to their normal lives.”
Assemblymember Marie Waldron, R- Valley Center, represents the 75th Assembly District in the California Legislature, which includes the cities of Poway, Santee, portions of the City of San Diego, and most of rural eastern and northern San Diego County.