Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Bills in Congress would extend Medicaid to some incarcerated people

Kimberly Boyles
Adobe Stock
Idaho saw a 22% increase in opioid overdoses between 2020 and 2021.

Organizations in Idaho are calling on the state's congressional delegation to support access to health coverage and substance-use treatment for the incarcerated population.

Eleven groups signed a letter supporting the Reentry Act and the Due Process Continuity of Care Act. The measures would increase access to Medicaid to up to 30 days before people leave jail or prison.

Rev. Sara LaWall, minister of the Boise Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, which signed the letter, said Idaho and the rest of the country are in the midst of an opioid crisis.

"Part of addressing that has to be prevention and support and has to be treatment," LaWall argued. "It can't just come when we're tipping over the scales of overdose."

People leaving incarceration are especially vulnerable to overdosing. Supporters in the letter cite a New England Journal of Medicine study, which found they are 129 times more likely to die from a drug overdose than the general population in the first two weeks after their release.

LaWall pointed out people who are incarcerated are among society's most marginalized populations.

"If we really believe in rehabilitation and redemption, then we have to be able to give incarcerated people the tools and the resources they need to be as successful as possible when they reenter our community," LaWall contended.

LaWall added not enough supports exist for people living on the margins, but faith communities are aligned in efforts to reverse it.

"We understand that part of our call in the world is to widen that circle of care and compassion and support and concern for the whole of humanity," LaWall noted.

Other organizations signing the letter include the Idaho Association of Public Health District Directors and Idaho Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.