New York State Decriminalizes Recreational Marijuana Use
New York state this week decriminalized recreational marijuana use, Reuters reports. Possession of small amounts of marijuana will be punished with fines instead of jail time.
A new federal policy will allow 96,000 inmates in halfway houses after release from prison to be eligible for Medicaid benefits, according to USA Today. The policy will allow the former inmates access to treatment for addiction and mental health issues in states that have expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.
Federal officials said the policy clarifies that people on probation, parole or under home confinement are not considered incarcerated for the purposes of Medicaid coverage. Most people in the criminal justice system are not insured. About half of those who are incarcerated have mental health and substance use disorders, the article notes.
Currently 30 states and the District of Columbia have expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. Louisiana, which has the highest rate of incarceration in the nation, will be the next state to expand Medicaid.
“Today’s actions will immediately begin to give as many as 96,000 of American’s most vulnerable citizens access to needed health care through Medicaid, including mental health and substance use disorder treatment, reducing the risk they will be re-incarcerated or hurt,” Richard Frank, Health and Human Services Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation, said in a news release.
Although the policy expands health coverage for former inmates in halfway houses, they may have trouble finding treatment, experts told the newspaper.
“In many communities around the country, it’s way too difficult to access services,” said Rebecca Farley, the National Council for Behavioral Health’s Senior Director of Policy and Advocacy. “We simply need more capacity in our mental health and addiction treatment system.”