Innovations

What Happens When Indiana’s Ex-Offenders Leave Prison

March 5th, 2020 | 4 min read

The numbers are staggering.

When ex-offenders are released from prison, they are 12.5 times more likely to die in the first two weeks after release than the average citizen.

Highly vulnerable in the first days of freedom, ex-offenders often lack necessities to get on their feet, like securing housing, income, food—even a driver’s license. Seventy percent are coping with a substance use disorder and 25 percent have a serious mental health illness. They face myriad of challenges to achieving self-sufficiency. Without support, nearly 34 percent of adult ex-offenders in Indiana will return to prison within three years after release, according to the Indiana Department of Correction (IDOC).

The CareSource Reentry Program™ for Ex-Offenders

When ex-offenders enroll in CareSource, they can sign up for its CareSource Reentry Program™ and met with a Life Coach. Life Coaches can help with college enrollment, applying for jobs and identifying appropriate housing. In some situations, transitional supportive housings are the best fit because with low rent, ex-offenders can use their resources to buy a car and build a savings account. The end goal is for participants in the program to be positioned to enroll employer-sponsored health insurance.

The Potential for Medicaid to Reduce Recidivism

Among the first of its kind in the country, the pilot program with IDOC—which has a statewide program for enrolling eligible prisoners in Medicaid before release—aims to connect with prisoners before their release, educate them about Medicaid health benefits and provide support after release for a seamless transition back to the community and to self-sufficiency.

“A health insurance company may seem like a surprising solution for reducing recidivism, but as a Medicaid managed care entity, CareSource serves Indiana’s most vulnerable citizens,” said Cameual Wright, M.D., CareSource’s Medical Director in Indiana. “We coordinate comprehensive medical care that includes mental health, physical health and substance use disorder treatment, as well as social needs such as nutrition, employment, housing and transportation issues that affect a person’s total health and well-being. We are uniquely positioned to dedicate resources to supporting the 16,000 ex-offenders returning to their communities each year.”

Programs providing immediate, comprehensive support of ex-offenders have the potential to reduce the country’s mass incarceration problem and save states money.

“Re-entry programs that focus on the transition back into society, when ex-offenders are at their most vulnerable, have the potential to dramatically reduce recidivism,” said Jennifer Walthall, M.D., M.P.H., Secretary for the Family Social Services Administration. “CareSource is a leader in improving the lives of re-entering citizens and strengthening our communities.”

After release, a returning citizen receives a health needs screening by CareSource’s re-entry team, which creates a care plan based not only on the member’s unique medical and behavioral health needs, but also on their social needs and self-sufficiency goals. Members may also engage with a Life Coach through the CareSource JobConnect program, which provides support for members education and employment goals.

On May 17, 2019, Ohio Medicaid Officials and CareSource Gathered For Jobs Roundtable

Future Plans for CareSource’s Reentry Program

In 2018, the Reentry Program provided pre-release education to nearly 700 offenders. Now active in all 15 Indiana prisons, the reentry program has conducted 113 pre-release education classes and completed 329 Health Needs Screenings and 197 transitions plans.

“This additional benefit will allow our members to focus on their future and, most importantly, all aspects of their health as they transition back into the community,” said Steve Smitherman, Indiana CareSource President.

CareSource plans to continue to extend the Reentry Program, adding to its network of 35 community partners and improving the process for offenders when applying for Medicaid.

Read more about Life Services at CareSource.