By Lois Davis, RAND Corporation
As California continues to release more prisoners, most will return to California communities, bringing with them a host of health and social needs. This raises key public health challenges, especially because ex-prisoners are returning to communities whose safety nets have already been severely strained. The RAND Corporation has just released a report to help California policymakers better understand the health care needs of those returning from prison to communities, which communities are disproportionately impacted by reentry, and the capacity of the health care safety net in those communities to handle them.
The full report and a press release are available, but several key findings emerge:
- California inmates bear a high burden of chronic diseases like asthma and hypertension and infectious diseases like hepatitis and tuberculosis—conditions that require regular use of healthcare for effective management—and their drug treatment and mental health care needs are even more pronounced.
- Certain counties and communities within California are disproportionately affected by reentry, which has implications in terms of targeting reentry resources to these areas.
- Most parolees—and, in particular, African-American and Latino parolees—return to disadvantaged communities where their needs for healthcare, housing, and employment, among other services, will be harder to meet.
- There are important gaps in the safety nets in those communities to meet parolee health care, drug treatment, and mental health care needs.
- Safety net providers, especially community clinics, are an important component of the safety net for parolees.
- Funding more clinics may help fill in geographic gaps in services.
- There is a need to better integrate the different treatment networks that provide services to the parolee population, particularly those for mental health, alcohol, and drug treatment.