Carl C. Bell, M.D., chairman of the National Commission on Correctional Health Care's (NCCHC) Board of Directors, in testifying to a congressional subcommittee, stated that "...the Federal Government must act to improve health care provided to the incarcerated in order to protect the health of the nation's communities.
"Over one million Americans are incarcerated in the jails and prisons in America and 10 times that number will pass through the correctional institutions in a year's time," Bell said.
Bell's testimony, titled "Correctional and Community Health Care: A prescription for a Healthier America," was given on April 28 before the Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies of the Appropriations Committee at the House of Representatives.
Bell cited numerous statistics indicating that those behind bars suffer from a number of maladies--mental illness, homelessness, substance abuse, violent behavior in the community, Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), tuberculosis--at a rate higher than that reported in the general population. He went on to say that these illnesses often-times contribute to the arrest and incarceration of people.
Further, Bell explained that most of these people will be released back into our communities within the year so that "...the opportunity exists to address their problems while they're incarcerated and return them, in a healthier state, back to their community where they can hopefully live productive and healthy lives."
One of Bell's many recommendations was that Congress consider continuing Medicaid and Medicare benefit eligibility for those incarcerated. At present, these benefits are lost upon incarceration and the states and counties must pay for prisoners' health care.
For more information contact: Jamie Budd, NCCHC, 2105 N. Southport, Chicago, IL 60614.
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