Legislation passed today by the Senate would extend support services that improve the chances of someone trying to reenter the community following incarceration.

“Reintegration into a community can be daunting for many reasons, but it’s even more difficult if someone abruptly loses services for mental health, substance abuse, anger management or other critical needs,” said Sen. Claire Wilson (D-Auburn). “Someone who needs help in those areas doesn’t suddenly stop needing help upon release from prison, juvenile rehabilitation, or other state institutions.”

Senate Bill 6638 would allow the Health Care Authority (HCA) to restore suspended Medicaid services up to 90 days before an incarcerated or civilly committed person is released from custody. The bill also adds reentry services as an optional medical assistance benefit for Medicaid recipients within the state behavioral health plan and requires the HCA to apply for a waiver to provide reentry services currently excluded from Medicaid to Medicaid clients using federal matching funds.

“When someone returns to a community, successful reentry is in everyone’s best interest,” Wilson said. “The alternative is a struggling individual who is more likely to make the kinds of decision that led to incarceration in the first place.”

Wilson’s bill also would broaden the availability of certain services regionally and would require community behavioral health agencies to offer people who are on conditional release for a crime linked to mental illness the same services offered to people on less restrictive treatment orders.

Having passed on a 36-12 vote, SB 6638 now goes to the House for consideration.