Indiana Launches Program To Pay For Drug Offenders' Treatment

By McCarton Ackerman 11/12/15

While a step in the right direction, the voucher-based program will only serve as a bridge until inmates get health coverage.

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As part of a continued push to help uninsured drug offenders, Indiana has launched its first statewide program that will pay for the addiction and mental health treatment of uninsured drug offenders sent to community corrections centers.

The new program, known as Recovery Works, aims to keep low-level, non-violent drug offenders out of prison. Beginning on November 1, courts, community corrections managers, and probation and parole officers have the option of referring eligible felons to designated treatment centers instead of jail or prison.

Those in the program will receive $2,500 in vouchers for mental health addiction assessments, screenings, treatments, or transportation to get to and from treatments. All participants must be at least 18 years old, have income under 200% of the federal poverty level and no other form of health insurance.

The money will come from $10 million in state funding for the first year of the program and $20 million for the second year, but the state will need to continue to provide similar funding in order to meet a growing need in this area.

"We hope this will always be part of our budget, that this would be a priority," said State Rep. Linda Lawson, who co-authored the bill.

Kevin Moore, director of the Division of Mental Health and Addiction at the Family Social Services Administration, said that Recovery Works is designed to be "a kind of bridge" for offenders in the program. They will temporarily receive treatment in the program until they can obtain Medicaid coverage, sign up for the state's health care program for low-income residents, or find another form of health insurance. All 25 community health centers throughout the state are expected to eventually link to the program.

"It's something the public has to wake up and understand," said Franklin County Sheriff Ken Murphy. "This problem affects everybody."

Statistics from the Indiana Department of Correction show that 80% of offenders in prison need treatment for drug addiction, while separate reports have found that 16% of inmates across the country have been diagnosed with a serious mental illness.

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.