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Protect Medicaid Mental Health Funding

Implications of subsidizing state run prison healthcare using federal Medicaid dollars.

I live just two miles from the proposed nursing home for convicited felons. I support our local leader’s efforts to give towns more authority over this project. However, today I’d like to raise this issue nationally.

According to the eighth amendment of United States constitution, states are required to provide inmates with medical care. This requirement makes state-run prison healthcare ineligible for federal reimbursement. Unable to reduce healthcare costs, many states have opted to release high cost sick and elderly prisoners early. By placing inmates in private nursing homes, states receive federal healthcare reimbursement through the Medicaid program. This takes away limited Medicaid resources from vulnerable groups, particularly struggling families and leads to cuts in critical mental health services. Last year, the Medicaid program paid for over half of publicly financed mental health services. [1] Mental health services like Wraparound Milwaukee, a program that could prevent another mass tragedy like the one that rocked our state a few months ago. According to an article in the Huffington post, "days before the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary, a boy in Milwaukee confessed to one of his teachers that he had been troubled by voices and delusions. The voices were insisting that he do harm, that he shoot people."[2] Aware of the mental health program, the boy’s teacher was able to bypass the juvenile justice system and get the child the care he needed including a personal “mental-health bodyguard”[2] providing 24/7 assistance.

With Medicaid already in the political cross hairs, we must act  to protect this mental health safety net.I believe our federal Medicaid tax dollars should be spent on our most needy citizens and on programs that prevent future tragedies, not on convicted felons who will get an early release from prison.

Please visit medicalparole.com for more information.

[1] http://www.allhealth.org/sourcebookcontent.asp?CHID=124

[2] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/19/sandy-hook-mental-health-program_n_2334017.html

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