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Medicaid Benefits and Recidivism of Mentally Ill Persons Released from Jail

NCJ Number
Date Published
December 2004
45 pages
This study examined whether Medicaid benefits available at the time of release from jail helped detainees who had a severe mental illness avoid returning to jail in the following year.
Detainees with severe mental illness who had Medicaid upon release had approximately 16 percent fewer detentions on average over the following 12 months compared with mentally ill jail detainees without Medicaid at release. Individuals who had Medicaid at release or who had Medicaid for a greater number of days prior to next arrest accessed more services and had more days in the community. The large majority of subsequent detentions were for minor, nonviolent offenses; having Medicaid did not affect the nature of these offenses. Medicaid benefits alone, however, were not sufficient to keep individuals with severe mental illness out of jail. The author advises that in addition to ensuring that detainees with severe mental illness have Medicaid, preventing their recidivism requires access to effective treatments, stable housing, employment, and other community supports that promote recovery and increase opportunities for stable community living. The study obtained data on 5,189 jail detainees in King County (Washington State) and 2,419 jail detainees in Pinellas County (Florida). Administrative data were obtained to identify jail detainees with severe mental illness and who were enrolled in Medicaid at some point during the 3-year study period. No special interventions were used to increase Medicaid enrollment while in jail or the use of Medicaid services after release. The study in Pinellas County was conducted between September 1998 and August 2000; the King County study was conducted between January 1996 and December 1998. 6 tables, 26 references, and appended supplementary tables

Date Published: December 1, 2004